for Rallye Deutschland leaderboard after SS14
Volkswagen's Sebastien Ogier has concluded day two of Rallye Deutschland with a 33.4 second lead over team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen, while Dani Sordo snatched third from Thierry Neuville in the final test of the day.
Ogier started the second leg 4.3secs off overnight leader, Mikkelsen, but with the Norwegian making an error in SS7, the gap was reduced to just 0.2secs.
The lead then switched back and forth in Arena Panzerplatte 1 and 2, before Ogier stormed through the daunting 40.80km Panzerplatte Lang 1 ending the morning loop with a 13.2sec cushion.
Ogier then extended his lead in the afternoon, gaining 6.7secs in SS11, before again acing Panzerplatte Lang to take his seventh stage win of the event. It means he will now go into the overnight halt with over 30 seconds in hand.
“We had a different tyre choice to Andreas [for the final test, Panzerplatte Lang 2] and I think we managed the softs pretty well,” Ogier told the official WRC site.
“A clean stage. I hope this puts us in a comfortable position tomorrow but there are still 60km to go - and another tricky vineyard stage.”
Speaking back in service, Ogier added: “On the whole, it was a long and tough day of rallying, but I am certainly pleased with our performance.
“The right tyre selection played a key role. It was very slippery in places, particularly on the long Panzerplatte stage, which meant that the decision to go for soft tyres on the second run was spot on.
“The lead is reassuring, but [as I said after SS14] we still have about 60 kilometres of special stage in the vineyards ahead of us. We know from experience that anything can happen there.”
Mikkelsen, who lost a further 13.1secs in SS14, noted: “I had to try something different, but in the forest sections it was hard to be confident with the lack of grip [with the hard tyres].
“I couldn't have done much more.”
“Today was about making the right tyre selection, controlled attack, and making as few mistakes as possible,” he continued.
“The day began almost perfectly for us – the right tyre selection meant I was able to gain some time on Seb [in SS6], but I then made a mistake that cost us a lot of time.
“We tried to make up ground with another aggressive tyre strategy in the afternoon – but our selection was simply not the right one.”
Behind, the second best time in Panzerplatte Lang 2 was enough to elevate Dani Sordo to P3, albeit just 0.4secs up on Hyundai team-mate Thierry Neuville. Sordo is also only 3.6secs shy of Mikkelsen in second.
“Okay, [the gap over Neuville is] not by much, but it's difficult to take time here. I am happy to be third. I've enjoyed the fight and the car is perfect,” Sordo stated.
“Like many others, we struggled to read the conditions correctly this morning so weren't on the optimum tyres for the first loop - we just focused on keeping out of trouble. I had a good feeling from the car in the afternoon, and we could set some competitive times.
“We made a good tyre call in the final run through Panzerplatte, which helped us to move up to third. It's very tight with Andreas and Thierry, so we have an interesting fight on our hands.
“I hope we can continue to have the same positive feeling on tomorrow's stages. A podium is definitely our target but it's far from guaranteed!”
“Things couldn't be much tighter for second place!” Neuville added. “It's great to be involved in an exciting battle with Andreas and Dani.
“The key to unlocking the best performance today has been tyre decisions, and it's been complicated. We made the wrong tyre choice for the morning loop and I also experienced a loss of power steering in the final kilometres of the first run through Panzerplatte Lang, which lost us some time.
“The start of the afternoon loop wasn't ideal as we overshot a hairpin in SS11, which again cost us a few seconds. After that, we started to pull things back with two stage wins in SS12 and 13, as well as a decent final run through Panzerplatte. The gap is incredibly close for the podium so we'll have to be on top of our game on Sunday.”
Hayden Paddon is next up in fifth in the Hyundai Motorsport N entry, but almost 3 minutes adrfit after his troubles on Friday.
M-Sport's Mads Ostberg trails the Kiwi, overhauled in SS12, and losing out further in the final two tests - the gap 32.5secs post-SS14.
“It's been a trying day but we've definitely made some improvements compared to yesterday,” Paddon stated. “We had some unpredictable conditions in the morning, which made tyre choice very difficult. Unfortunately, we got it wrong and were on hard tyres when we should have selected soft - and vice-versa. The feeling in the car was a bit foreign in those conditions so we had to drive sensibly.
“I am a competitive person by nature but I've had to be patient today. You can't get the same experience in pre-event testing, so we've had a lot to learn over the past two days.
“We're inside the top-five now and have had a more positive conclusion to the day. I fully intend to take that forward to Sunday and look to consolidate our position.”
“We didn't have much to lose today so we tried a few different set-ups,” Ostberg added. “Some of it was okay, but not everything and we need to work a little bit more on that.
“We'll try something new again tomorrow to see if we can be a bit more confident out on the stages. We found something that seemed to work quite well on the rear, but tomorrow we need to make the front a little bit better too.”
In WRC2, Esapekka Lappi is well in control in his Fabia R5 - and seventh overall - his lead up to over a minute, with Jan Kopecky recovering to second and demoting Armin Kremer down to P3 in the last stage.
“Everything went really well for us today right from the start,” Lappi said. “The tyre choice was perfect and we made no mistakes. We had a lot of grip. The Fabia R5 was wonderful and we were able to record some very fast times.
“We are in a great position for the final day of the rally, as we are in the lead and everyone else has to try and catch us. But we will have to keep an eye on Jan in particular: he is a real asphalt specialist, he knows the stages and he won here last year. He is always going to be there or thereabouts.”
In terms of retirements, Citroen privateer Stephane Lefebvre and DMACK's Ott Tanak both failed to make it to the end of the leg.
Lefebvre crashed out in SS10. The stage was stopped as a result and the Frenchman and co-driver Gabin Moreau were both taken to hospital having suffered fractures and internal injuries
. Moreau was also operated on this afternoon to reduce the fracture to his left ankle.
Tanak had to stop on the repeat loop, failing to start SS12 after suffering an alternator issue at the end of the previous test. He will re-start on Sunday.
Jari-Matti Latvala and Eric Camilli re-joined under Rally 2, but after their exits on Friday in SS1 are running well down.
Rallye Deutschland now concludes on Sunday with two stages on the bill, both to be run twice. SS15, the 14.79km Dhrontal 1 test, is due to start tomorrow at 07.13 hours local time [06.13 hours UK time].