UNDERDOG Jan Kopecky was the shock leader of ADAC Rallye Deutschland after winning Thursday night’s opening speed test in Saarbrücken.
But the tight and twisty city centre roads proved the undoing of Kris Meeke who failed to finish after hitting a concrete barrier.
Big crowds gathered in the heart of the city for the rally’s first visit to Saarland’s capital. Kopecký put on a spectacular show, the asphalt expert outgunning big-name drivers to top the times in his WRC 2-specification Skoda Fabia R5.
The Czech pilot was 0.3sec quicker than Ott Tänak’s Ford Fiesta. Craig Breen was a further 1.0sec behind, despite swiping a concrete wall in the opening corner and damaging his C3’s rear-left wheel.
Andreas Mikkelsen was fourth in another C3, the Norwegian tied with Sébastien Ogier. They were 0.3sec clear of Jari-Matti Latvala, whose Toyota Yaris completed the top six.
Ogier got the better of title rival Thierry Neuville, who was ninth in his Hyundai i20 and 2.7sec off the lead pace.
Meeke was devastated after hitting a barrier on the inside of a right-hand bend. He tried to limp on but his Citroën C3’s steering was broken and he parked the car.
It exited the stage on the back of a tow truck and the Briton will restart tomorrow with a 10min penalty.
Hayden Paddon, Dani Sordo and local hero Armin Kremer, driving a 2017 Fiesta for the first time, all hit a barrier but survived unscathed.
Friday’s first full day features the fast, hairpin-strewn vineyards above the Mosel river. A double pass of the familiar Mittelmosel and Grafschaft stages are sandwiched by three runs of a new circuit test at Wadern-Weiskirchen. The seven stages cover 108.51km.
Outright results after Thursday:
1 Jan Kopecky/Pavel Dresler (Skoda Fabia R5) 2m05.9s
2 Ott Tanak/Martin Jarveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) +0.3s
3 Craig Breen/Scott Martin (Citroen C3 WRC): +1.3s
4 Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1.9s
5 Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger (Citroen C3 WRC) +1.9s
6 Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2.2s
7 Elfyn Evans/Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2.4s
8 Dani Sordo/Marc Marti (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +2.5s
9 Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +2.7s
10 Hayden Paddon/Seb Marshall (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +2.8s