Ott Tänak was on course for the best result of his career following a sensational drive over the second day of competition at the 2012 ADAC Rallye Deutschland, until disaster struck on the final test of the day. Despite claiming two stage victories on the asphalt roads, the Estonian currently lies ninth going into the final day of competition.
Elsewhere, having suffered cruel misfortune on the opening stage of the event, team mate Evgeny Novikov was using the seat-time wisely to learn the stages and improve the set-up on his first venture to the German stages.
Embarking on the longest and most difficult day of competition, M-Sport’s young guns tackled two loops of three stages – each with varying characteristics including more twisting tests through the vineyards, a short dash through the fast, open roads of the Saarland countryside and the perilous run between the ‘Hinkelstein’ concrete blocks and broken Tarmac that litter the Arena Panzerplatte.
Blighted by heavy rain through the opening stage (SS7), Tänak and co-driver Kuldar Sikk maintained their seventh place behind the wheel of their Ford Fiesta RS WRC. Embarking on the second stage, the Estonian was back to his best – challenging the works drivers with a fourth fastest time just 1.6 seconds adrift of eight-time world champion Sébastien Loeb.
The first pass through the Arena Panzerplatte was a dramatic one. With problems for Petter Solberg, Dani Sordo and Thierry Neuville, Tänak’s maturity shone through. Despite his soft tyres going off towards the end of the stage and losing out to Mads Østberg, the Estonian climbed to fifth place – just 0.8 seconds adrift of fourth going into the afternoon loop where he was set to shine.
Shine he did and Tänak came alive through the afternoon loop. Impressing with two stage victories over SS10 and SS11 – 5.4 seconds faster than Loeb through ‘Stein & Wein’ – the Estonian’s outright speed and composure emulated that of his mentor and fellow countryman Markko Märtin. With his stage wins propelling him into fourth place, the 24-year-old built a 10 second lead over Østberg in fifth and lay just over 30 seconds adrift of the podium going into the final pass through the Baumholder military ground.
On course for his best ever finish in the WRC, disaster struck for Tänak on the final stage of the day (SS10). Hitting one of the treacherous ‘Hinkelsteins’ that line the Arena Panzerplatte, the youngster damaged the left-rear corner of his Fiesta thus putting a heart-aching end to what had been an impressive day’s rallying.
Elsewhere, Day 2 was all about gaining experience for Novikov and new co-driver for this event, Nicolas Klinger. Having to contend with torrential rain running later on the stage in SS7, the Russian got his Ford Fiesta RS WRC back in the top-ten on the open roads of SS8 and set a fastest overall split time on his first appearance through the daunting Arena Panzerplatte stage (SS9).
Returning for the second loop, Novikov continued to gain experience of the roads and set-up with another string of top-ten times including an impressive fifth fastest stage time over the final run through the Baumholder military ground (SS12).
Ott Tänak (9th) said:
“We touched one of the ‘Hinkelsteins’ on the last stage [SS12] and broke the wishbone on the car and couldn’t carry on. That is it really and obviously I am very disappointed because we were on target for a good result and we lost the position we were fighting for.
“The team will get the car fixed tonight, so tomorrow we will just carry on and try and show the same pace we did today to see if we can set some more good stage times.”
Evgeny Novikov (31st) said:
“This afternoon was good. We drove two stages with the soft tyres which was definitely not the right choice but those stages were not so long so it was OK.
“Today has been all about experience and we are getting a lot of knowledge from the stages. Everything is fine and tomorrow we will just do the same – work with the set-up on the car a bit and try to learn more.”