Tanak leads opening day at Rally Germany

2017-08-18 20:24:26
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Ott Tanak has turned 4.1-second mid-leg deficit into a 5.7-second overnight advantage during the afternoon loop of stages on Rally Germany. Despite a tricky afternoon during which many of the drivers have slid off the road, the Estonian included, he regained the lead and heads Andreas Mikkelsen, who took the surprise advantage this morning despite a poor starting position. Championship contenders Sebastien Ogier and Thierry Neuville have also swapped positions, with Neuville now climbing to third when his rival spun in the final stage.

After torrential rain during the mid-day service, crews headed back out to the same two vineyard stages this afternoon before returning to the super special stage. The repeated Mittelmosel stage was rain soaked and again the crews ran different configurations of tires, but mostly on full wets. Tanak took the stage win, even though he went straight into a vineyard on a tight hairpin, and managed to overhaul Mikkelsen in the following test. He then got stuck on some mud in the final stage and struggled to get back on the road on the slick tires but held on to his advantage after a very tricky day of competition.

Mikkelsen, in only his third outing in the C3 WRC, has excelled and barely put a foot wrong, showing the true potential of the car on tarmac. Behind him, Neuville climbed from sixth to third during the afternoon; he had a spin in the first stage, struggled with wheelspin and braking and then also ran wide in the final stage but was able to take Ogier when the Frenchman spun and lost 20 seconds, dropping him down to fourth but only 2.4 seconds adrift.

Elfyn Evans continues to hold fifth after a reasonably uneventful afternoon and the Welshman heads Juho Hanninen, who is now the lead Toyota driver after Esapekka Lappi ended up in a wall with broken suspension and had to retire. Craig Breen struggled with confidence this afternoon and then spun into a field. Nevertheless he is seventh and within striking distance of Hanninen. Latvala has moved into eighth but is now nearly two minutes adrift of the lead after his engine woes of the morning.

Hayden Paddon admitted to needing to regain his confidence tomorrow and the New Zealander is ninth with asphalt ace Jan Kopecky moving into the top 10 in his Skoda Fabia R5. The Czech driver heads the FIA WRC 2 Championship but is in a close battle with category leader Pontus Tidemand, the Swede only 5.8 seconds behind.

The FIA Junior WRC Championship was a close-fought fight until series leader Nil Solans retired with suspension damage. With him out of the game today, his closest championship rival, Nicolas Ciamin, will be looking to capitalize and close the gap in the standings before they head to Spain for the final round of their series.