Ott Tanak is leading the rally Germany after the first day of the event. The Toyota driver is 12.3 sek ahead of the world champion Sebastien Ogier (Ford Fiesta, M-Sport).
Tanak won Thursday night’s short curtain-raising speed test in St Wendel. Ogier, three times a German winner, demoted him in Friday’s opener. The Estonian struggled with the balance of his Toyota Yaris.
Tanak then won all five remaining stages on narrow service tracks.
They corkscrewed through the Mosel vineyards and smooth country lanes in Saarland.
“Before the rally I had no idea how we would compare to the others. This morning didn’t feel perfect but the times were good, Ott said. – Conditions were pretty tricky this afternoon, but I pushed hard in every stage. Seb isn’t an easy guy to fight.”
The Frenchman admitted he had no answer to former team-mate Tänak, but distanced championship leader Thierry Neuville by 15.1sec after 101.42km of action.
An oil leak in the gearbox of Neuville’s Hyundai i20 forced a change at mid-leg service. The Belgian lacked traction on the dusty asphalt and eyed tomorrow’s bumpier and more abrasive roads, which he believes will suit his car better.
M-Sport’s Elfyn Evans holds 4th by just one second. He build on his morning loop’s performance and doubling his gap to the chasing Jari-Matti Latvala on the final stage.
While Latvala did not make any positions up in the afternoon, he grew in confidence after tweaks to his front-differential set-up. It allowed him to have greater confidence in his Toyota.
That helped him remain clear of Hyundai’s Dani Sordo, who spent much of the afternoon swapping time with Esapekka Lappi (Toyota).
Sordo held sixth by just over one second as Lappi again admitted to being scared of finding the limit on Germany’s asphalt.
WRC standings after SS7 –
1. Tänak 59m 22.6sec
2. Ogier +12.3sec
3. Neuville +27.4sec
4. Evans +37.8sec
5. Latvala +38.8sec
6. Sordo +42.7sec #WRC
— WRC (@OfficialWRC) August 17, 2018