for Rallye Deutschland leaderboard after SS5
Volkswagen's Andreas Mikkelsen will go into day two of Rallye Deutschland with a 4.3sec advantage over team-mate Sebastien Ogier.
Mikkelsen took the lead in the second stage this morning, when early leader Ogier missed a hairpin and lost a few seconds near the start of Moselland 1.
On the repeat loop, Mikkelsen gained ground initially, winning SS3 to extend his advantage from 2.7s to 5.2s, before then being pegged back in SS4, when he was only fourth fastest.
The second best time in the day ending Ollmuth SSS, however, was sufficient to keep him on top, albeit with Ogier moving back to P2 after Thierry Neuville was 3.4secs off the pace.
“Not bad for a Norwegian, hey?” Mikkelsen said at the end of the day. “We tried from the outset to stay just under the limit – to drive both as quickly and as securely as possible. We managed that better sometimes than others. Whatever, it is obviously great to be leading the rally and we are proud of our performance.
“The conditions were far from easy. All the cutting of corners had churned up a lot of dirt. That made it extremely slippery and there was no room for errors.
“We came through cleanly – and we must continue in this fashion over the coming days, which are completely different rallies in their own rights. We have five doses of 'Panzerplatte' tomorrow, and are determined to do well there again. I'm looking forward to Saturday. It will be tricky and Seb will be fast there, but we will try to fight.”
“For me it hasn't been the perfect day,” Ogier conceded, “but now I'm looking forward to tomorrow's Baumholder stages.”
“The conditions were not easy, particularly in the morning on the technically demanding stages in the vineyards. We lost a few seconds on stage two, when we missed a junction and I had to reverse briefly. On the whole, I did not take too many risks,” he continued.
“Above all, I wanted to get through the day safely and without incident. I particularly liked the 'Ollmuth' stage – very quick with huge crowds who had a great view of the route.
“The gap between Andreas, Thierry, Dani [Sordo] and me is not a big one – it promises to be an exciting day tomorrow on the 'Panzerplatte'.”
Meanwhile, Neuville was disappointed to slip from P2 to P3 in the short day ending SSS, especially as he could have took the lead in SS4, but for a spin.
“In SS4, I cut a bit too much in a very tight hairpin, spun the car and had to reverse. That cost about five seconds,” he confirmed. “Overall though I think we are in good shape and I hope we can register a good 'home' result for the team this weekend. I feel that we can definitely be in the fight.”
Behind, Dani Sordo holds fourth, 6.8secs off his Hyundai team-mate in P3, and 42.7secs up on DMACK's Ott Tanak in fifth. Tanak in turn is 11.2secs ahead of the Citroen DS 3 WRC of Stephane Lefebvre, with Mads Ostberg seventh for M-Sport and Hayden Paddon eighth.
Ostberg hit something in the opening test this morning, and then complained of steering problems and a faulty handbrake in SS2. Paddon also had a woeful start, with a big spin in SS2 and a rear left puncture in SS3. The New Zealander had a “big moment” in SS3 this afternoon as well and after going off admitted he was lucky not to have retired.
“It's been one of those days and we've certainly been learning the hard way!” Paddon noted. “We had an eventful morning loop. The conditions were tricky, mainly dry but there was a lot of mud in the cuts. We had a big spin in the vineyards and lost 20 seconds. Then, in the following stage, we hit a drain on the rear-left, which added to the time loss.
“We made it to lunchtime service relatively intact but had more drama in the afternoon. The repeat of Mittelmosel we had a big moment heading downhill fast in sixth when we went off. We were fortunate to get away with it, really. I'm hoping for less drama tomorrow, that's for sure.”
Further back, WRC2 leader Armin Kremer is ninth, with nearest class rival Esapekka Lappi tenth, 28.4secs adrift.
As for retirements, VW's Jari-Matti Latvala and M-Sport's Eric Camilli were the most notable casualties, both going out in SS1. Latvala was sidelined by gearbox problems, while Camilli crashed out.
Rallye Deutschland now continues on Saturday with nine stages on the bill, including the long and daunting 40.80 km Panzerplatte Lang test (due to be run twice, both in the morning and in the afternoon).
SS6, the 14.73km Freisen-Westrich 1 test, will kick-off the action on Saturday. It is due to start at 08.20 hours local time [07.20 hours UK time].