PHOTO: Sébastien Ogier puts on a show for the huge crowd at Rallye Germany (Volkswagen pic)
SÉBASTIEN Ogier’s mastery of the famous Panzerplatte military roads put him in control of ADAC Rallye Deutschland after Saturday’s second leg
He crushed teammate Jari-Matti Latvala through both runs of the marathon speed test on the Baumholder ranges to extend his lead to 33.8sec with four tricky stages in the Mosel vineyards remaining on Sunday.
While Ogier is on course for victory, it’s unlikely the weekend will deliver his third straight WRC crown – which had been a mathematical possibility – and that quest will now default to the next round at Coates Hire Rally Australia in less than three weeks’ time.
Ogier’s lead stood at 9.0sec as the rally ventured onto the daunting tank training tracks for the first time in the morning. On roads ranging from smooth asphalt to broken concrete, lined by huge kerbstones normally used to keep tanks in line, the Frenchman was supreme.
He won both the 45.61km test and the preceding two sprint stages to more than double his lead to 18.5sec. His performance on the afternoon pass was even more stunning, blitzing Latvala by more than 15sec to extend his lead beyond half a minute.
“It was a perfect day,” Ogier told WRC.com.
“We made most of the difference in Panzerplatte and that was the key to the rally. We had the right set-up and tyre management, but it’s never easy without split times because you never know where you are with the rhythm.”
Latvala was deflated after his Panzerplatte punishment.
“I’m surprised, I don’t understand. I thought I had a good run,” admitted the Finn, who won three of the nine stages. Ogier won the other six.
Andreas Mikkelsen was third, a further 1min 13.7sec back to retain Volkswagen’s 1-2-3 with the Polo R car on its home event. The Norwegian felt comfortable enough to test a different differential in the afternoon in preparation for the season’s remaining asphalt action.
Hyundai teammates Dani Sordo and Thierry Neuville duelled for fourth in their i20 cars. Neuville moved ahead in the morning but despite gearchange problems when shifting from second to first, Sordo regained the initiative to end 9.5sec ahead of the Belgian.
Elfyn Evans completed the top six in a Ford Fiesta RS, the Welshman feeling he may have been too aggressive with his tyres. He was only 3.2sec ahead of the closing Mads Østberg, the Norwegian relegating Ott Tänak and Hayden Paddon.
Tänak lost a minute after going off the road and struggling to restart his engine due to a broken starter motor. Paddon was perplexed by his below-par performance until a faulty turbocharger was diagnosed in his i20.
Two identical loops of two stages covering 67.34km remain for Sunday, the rally ending with the live TV Power Stage and bonus points for the fastest three drivers.
The Power Stage can be viewed live on WRC+ at 8pm Sunday, Australian time.