Germany WRC: Tanak leading Toyota 1-2-3, puncture for Ogier
Ott Tanak leads a Toyota 1-2-3 on Rally Germany heading into Sunday as World Rally Championship rival Sebastien Ogier joined Thierry Neuville in suffering a puncture on the iconic Panzerplatte test.
Hyundai driver Neuville and Tanak had been embroiled in an intense battle for the lead on Friday that continued into Saturday morning, but the fight was defused on the first run through the 41km Panzerplatte stage.
Neuville collected a rear-left puncture early on the stage, but incredibly minimised the time loss to just 1m26.8s after stopping to change the tyre. Nonetheless, he plummeted from second to an initial seventh place.
Tanak subsequently backed off with the protection of his two teammates behind him, carrying a 32.4s lead into the final day on Sunday.
Jari-Matti Latvala nibbled three seconds out of Toyota squadmate Kris Meeke across the first three stages of the afternoon, but was outgunned by Meeke on Panzerplatte 2.
The Northern Irishman said he put in “the best Baumholder drive I’ve ever done” to maintain second place, 9.4s ahead of Latvala overnight.
Both runs of Panzerplatte were difficult for Ogier. On a stage the world champion has traditionally excelled on, Ogier gave it “everything I have” on the first pass but was overhauled by both Meeke and Latvala to drop to fourth place behind the trio of Toyotas.
That set the tone for the rest of the afternoon, with a stall hampering him in the proceeding test. A puncture on the second run through Panzerplatte compounded his woes, dropping the Citroen man from fourth to eighth place.
Dani Sordo vaulted past teammate Andreas Mikkelsen and Citroen’s Esapekka Lappi across the afternoon to lead the Hyundai charge after Neuville’s calamity, sealing fourth place overnight.
Neuville overhauled Mikkelsen on the day’s final stage despite losing the rear of his i20 Coupe WRC and spinning the car around. He recovered from his earlier puncture to hold fifth, sandwiched by his two Hyundai teammates.
A frustrated Lappi is seventh and joined his teammate in vocalising his frustrations with the Citroen C3’s performance, describing Panzerplatte 2 as a “nightmare” where “the time was rubbish.”
Takamoto Katsuta picked up a front-right puncture on Arena Panzerplatte 2, which allowed M-Sport driver Gus Greensmith into ninth overall.
Greensmith’s teammate Teemu Suninen survived a power steering scare to complete the loop with multiple top-five stage times, but is still over 40 minutes in arrears after his early electrical retirement on Friday. His focus is therefore already on Sunday’s points-paying Power Stage.
Jan Kopecky continues to lead the WRC2 Pro class in his Skoda Fabia R5 Evo in 11th overall.
Neuville's Rally Germany win hopes dashed by puncture
Germany WRC: Tanak wins, Toyota locks out podium