Mikkelson leads tight early battle in Rally Germany

2017-08-18 14:44:35
http://www.racer.com/component/flexicontent/502-rally/143290-mikkelson-leads-tight-early-battle-in-rally-germany?Itemid=514
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After four Friday morning stages on Rally Germany, and no fewer than four different leaders overall, Andreas Mikkelsen tops the leaderboard for Citroen Racing on the 10th round of the FIA World Rally Championship. Ott Tanak, another of the early pace-setters, is second in the Fiesta WRC with teammate Sebastien Ogier third having recovered from a spin in the day's opener.

The ADAC Rally Germany got underway last night in Saarbrucken with a short and twisty street stage which was won by Jan Kopecky in the smaller Skoda R5 rally car. Losing an event on these super special stages can sometimes be the case and the first victim of the event was the luckless Kris Meeke, the Citroen driver clipping a barrier and breaking the steering. While he was able to rejoin under Rally 2 regulations this morning, a 10-minute penalty has put paid to any hope of a top result in Germany in the C3 WRC that has proven to be so fast on tarmac.

Today, the crews headed from Bostalsee and the morning loop included two runs through a super special stage and two narrow tests in the vineyards littered with hairpins. Mikkelsen, driving the C3 for only the third time, had a far from beneficial lowly road position but in the drier conditions this morning the Norwegian struggled less with mud being dragged on to the road from the drivers ahead and he was able to power ahead of Tanak and take the lead, revelling in the performance of the car on asphalt.

Like everyone, Tanak has found the conditions challenging and despite dropping from the lead after SS3, the Estonian is only 4.1 seconds adrift at the mid-leg service. Ogier didn't have the greatest start, spinning into a field in the first stage, but the reigning FIA World Rally Champion has bounced back from seventh to third and is crucially ahead of championship rival Thierry Neuville, who is down in fifth after also going off into a vineyard in the second stage. Elfyn Evans sandwiches the title contenders in fourth, the Welshman struggling with understeer during the morning stages.

Behind fifth-placed Neuville, Rally Finland victor Esapekka Lappi is sixth in the lead Toyota Yaris WRC. The Finn is far from confident on this surface but is faring well as he gains more experience on pavement. Craig Breen and Juho Hanninen are however hot on his heels in seventh, the rivals both just 2.3 seconds adrift. Hayden Paddon, another driver who is happier on gravel, played a waiting game for rain with his tire choice but it failed to pay off when conditions were drier than expected. He then picked up a puncture in the penultimate stage and dropped more time. Jari-Matti Latvala rounds off the top 10, the Finn higher up the leaderboard until an engine misfire dropped him back; he is now over 90 seconds adrift of the lead.

Dani Sordo, starting his 150th WRC event, was on the pace this morning and led after the opening stage. However the Spaniard then went off the road in the third stage and was forced into a disappointing retirement on an event he had targeted for a win.

The FIA WRC 2 Championship category has a strong field in Germany and tarmac ace Jan Kopecky is topping the field in the Skoda R5. Pontus Tidemand, fighting for an unassailable lead in the championship, is second and only 5.9 seconds adrift in similar machinery. The FIA Junior WRC Championship contenders are also continuing their season-long battle and Rally Finland category winner Nicolas Ciamin is ahead of his rival for the title, Nil Solans.

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