SAARBRUCKEN, Germany: Estonia’s Ott Tanak holds the lead going into Saturday at the muddy Rally of Germany as Thierry Neuville claimed a slim advantage over four-time world champion Sebastien Ogier, his rival for the world title.
Tanak, 29, who claimed his first win in the championship this year in Sardinia, set the fastest time in his Ford Focus through the soggy vineyards of the Moselle.
“Conditions are really tricky — in one place we got stuck in the mud — it took so long to get back on the road with the slick tyres, but it was a good day though,” said Tanak.
His performances enabled Tanak to wrestle the lead from unheralded Czech driver Jan Kopecky who had set the pace on Thursday after the super special stage on the streets of Saarbrucken.
Norway’s Andreas Mikkelsen in his Volkswagen goes into Saturday’s nine stages at 5.7 sec behind.
Neuville, who races in a Hyundai, is third at 28.2 sec, just 2.4 ahead of Ogier, another Ford driver.
“I was right on the limit, I have to say, there was so much wheelspin and locking on the brakes, many times we nearly went off. I’m missing a lot of traction,” said Neuville who has the same number of points as Ogier in the overall championship but occupies top spot courtesy of having won more races.
Ogier’s Fiesta finished the day covered in mud and lost 21 seconds behind Neuville on the eighth stage.
“We had a spin and lost 20sec. A shame but that’s how it is. It’s going to be tight. I knew I would struggle,” said the Frenchman.