Jari-Matti Latvala’s FIA World Rally Championship title hopes have been bolstered once again following a second accident for Sébastien Ogier which has ruled him out of the rest of Rallye Deutschland. Latvala continues to head the field and has pulled out a 56.6 second lead over Kris Meeke, the Briton withstanding pressure from behind to maintain second position. Thierry Neuville has climbed up the leaderboard from fifth to third following an impressive day of competition.
The second day of ADAC Rallye Deutschland presented a very different challenge, the route taking the contenders into the forests, down narrow country roads and into the daunting Baumholder military testing ground. Two identical loops of four stages lay in wait and with changeable weather conditions, it was little surprise that a number of crews hit problems.
After yesterday’s last stage accident, Ogier’s comeback from 35th position didn’t get off to a good start in the first stage, the Frenchman missing a junction and having to reverse. In the following stage, however, he was off the road in a dramatic accident that saw he and co-driver Julien Ingrassia crash through a barrier and into the undergrowth. While both were uninjured, the damage to the Armco barrier prompted the organiser to cancel the stage on the grounds of safety. When the car eventually returned to service, Volkswagen confirmed damage to the roll cage was too great to repair within the permitted three hour timeframe, ruling the crew out of the team’s home event for the second consecutive year.
Much like Rally Finland, today belonged to Latvala and the Finn has claimed victory in five of the seven stages to hold a comfortable advantage with just four stages and 74.60 competitive kilometres remaining.
Kris Meeke, second, has been pushed hard by the Hyundai drivers, formerly Dani Sordo and latterly Neuville. Both i20 WRCs were on hard compound tyres in the first run through Panzerplatte when all other crews were on softs and the conditions proved to be much drier than expected. Neuville gained the most, overhauling Andreas Mikkelsen and Sordo to leap from fifth to third in this single stage. Since then, Neuville has pushed hard and he and Meeke are split by just 4.3 seconds overnight, setting up a huge battle to the finish. Sordo has dropped further back, a spin costing him precious time, and he is fourth this evening, 25.9 seconds further adrift but also in a battle to retain his position.
Mikkelsen, Mikko Hirvonen, Elfyn Evans and Mads Østberg are all potentially within striking distance, resulting in battles throughout the top eight over tomorrow’s closing stages. Martin Prokop has had a better day today and Robert Kubica has climbed to 10th, the Pole claiming two fastest stage times in the tricky conditions. Bryan Bouffier was another casualty of the conditions; he went off the road in the final stage.