Volkswagen’s Sebastien Ogier holds a 5.7sec overnight lead of ADAC Rallye Deutschland after the opening two stages run this afternoon in the countryside south of Cologne.
Ogier was first to tackle Thursday’s second ashalt test, the brand new Sauertal, and arrived at the finish control in his Polo R World Rally Car with a grin on his face.
“That was better than the first one,” said the Frenchman, who was fastest on both of Thursday's tests. “I think the first stage was hard for everyone because there was no grip, but this was much better and I had more fun. Okay, not a bad start but it’s just the beginning. The real rally starts tomorrow.”
Ogier’s team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala was second quickest, to lie 5.7sec adrift in the overall standings and secure a perfect one-two for Volkswagen at the end of the first day of the manufacturer’s home rally.
“The dust on the first stage made it tricky but clearly this was much better,” said Latvala. “Generally a good run for me, braking too early in a couple of places, but better.”
Third quickest, as he had been on stage one, was Ford Fiesta RS driver Thierry Neuville of the Qatar World Rally Team. “A much faster road, and less dirty too – the car is working well,” he said. The Belgian will start tomorrow’s competition 7.0sec behind Latvala.
Dani Sordo is fourth, 7.8sec behind Neuville, and the first of the Citroen works team drivers. The Spaniard’s DS3 sported some light bodywork damage on its left-hand front corner.
“It happened on a hairpin, it's nothing important,” said Sordo, who was more concerned by the pace of the cars ahead. “I hoped my time would be better. I’m very surprised by how fast they are, to be honest. I don’t feel bad in the stage, the car felt okay, but the times are different. We’ll see how we go tomorrow.”
Mikko Hirvonen was fifth fastest, to hold the same position overall, 5.2sec behind Sordo. After a cautious start, the Finn is hopeful he can find more speed on Friday. “I just have to be braver over the cuts,” he said. “But okay, at least there’s room for improvement.”
A frustrated Mads Ostberg completed in the sixth fastest time, 8.9sec slower than Ogier, in his Fiesta RS. “Okay, a little bit better, but I struggled to find the rhythm and I don’t know why,” the Norwegian explained. “The pace notes are good, we changed the settings and the car works better, but still I struggled. I can’t push because I don’t have the confidence to do it yet.”
Nasser Al Attiyah is seventh, with Martin Prokop, still troubled by a lack of braking feeling, eighth. Michal Kosciuszko is ninth with Khalid Al Qassimi 14th and the final WRC runner following the earlier retirements of Evgeny Novikov and P-G Andersson.
After the overnight halt in Trier, the rally restarts on Friday at 0930hrs, with the first stage, the 22.95km Mittelmosel, scheduled to get underway at 1043hrs.
In the WRC 2 category, Robert Kubica was fastest on both stages to open a 14.9sec lead in his Citroen DS3 RRC over Elfyn Evans. Evans’ Fiesta R5 is 8.3sec clear of local boy Sepp Wiegand in a Skoda Fabia S2000.