SS13 was the final stage of the day due to a fatal accident of non-World Rally Championship competitors which cancelled SS14.
Dani Sordo is the new leader of ADAC Rallye Deutschland after he edged past Thierry Neuville with the fastest time on the repeated Peterberg test.
Sordo, who has started 106 WRC rallies but is yet to win one, now holds a slim 0.8sec advantage at the top of the standings in his Citroen DS3.
Having avoided the carnage on the previous test, and mastered the damp and slippery conditions in Peterberg, Sordo was in high spirits at the finish control. “That was great, really nice,” he said. “The stage was a bit dirty, with lots of gravel, but no problems. I’m very happy.”
Neuville was 1.9sec slower than Sordo, his car hampered by an exhaust pipe that had been squeezed half-closed by the incident on the previous stage.
“The handling is okay but the exhaust is quite bent so we lost a bit of power,” he explained. “I think it is okay, and actually we are lucky to be here at all because many cars hit trouble in that stage.”
Mikko Hirvonen put in another cautious performance and set the sixth fastest time to remain third, a distant 1m26s behind Neuville. “It's muddy and slippery in many places, so I took it carefully while watching what’s happening in front,” said the Finn.
Former F1 driver Robert Kubica was fifth fastest in his DS3 RRC - beating the times of World Rally Car drivers Hirvonen, Martin Prokop and Khalid Al Qassimi. The Pole, who leads the WRC 2 category, is fifth overall, 1m26s behind Martin Prokop.
SS12: Latvala out, Neuville in trouble
The ADAC Rallye Deutschland leaderboard was turned upside down when both leader Jari-Matti Latvala and second-placed Thierry Neuville went off the road at a rain-soaked left bend shortly before the middle of the stage.
A brake disc was ripped from Latvala’s Volkswagen Polo R and although he tried to limp to the end, the Finn retired 5km before the finish. Bizarrely, Latvala was reported to have started the stage with co-driver Miikka Anttila’s door flapping open.
Neuville was luckier. The impact dented the rear left of his Ford Fiesta RS and the Belgian completed the rest of the test with a log jammed underneath the rear of the car (pictured above after the stage).
“You couldn’t see the corner, it was so slippery,” he said. “Latvala touched and we touched the same. I saw his brake disc in the corner. I tried to slow down but it was too late and we weren’t pushing. It was second gear, that was all. I couldn’t avoid it. It was like ice and many drivers will have problems there.”
An animated Neuville added: “Now my exhaust is blocked, and there is no power.” His Qatar World Rally Team later confirmed that although the exhaust was damaged, it would not prevent him from continuing.
Amid all the drama, Dani Sordo was second quickest in his Citroen DS3 and now lies just 1.1sec behind new leader Neuville, who was third fastest but dropped almost 8sec to the Spaniard.
“They were very slippery conditions. I’m very happy. I did a good stage, but I don’t want to speak a lot yet because there are difficult conditions in the next stages. We had moments all the time,” admitted Sordo.
The drama continued as Mads Ostberg went off the road in a wooded section 9.6km into the stage. He crashed at a left bend and with the car stuck in a ditch he had to retire.
Sebastien Ogier was fastest in his Polo R by 9.2sec from Sordo, the Frenchman succinctly summarising the stage as ‘quite tricky’. Behind Neuville, Mikko Hirvonen was fourth ahead of the dueling WRC 2 duo of Elfyn Evans and Robert Kubica, now fifth and sixth overall.