Ott Tänak claimed an early lead as the German round of the FIA World Rally Championship got underway this evening with the opening St Wendeler Land stage close to the service park at Bostalsee. Drivers earlier had the chance to make several runs over the very same 5.2-kilometre route in this morning’s pre-event shakedown, where Tänak led the Toyota drivers with the second-fastest time.
The top nine drivers were covered by just 1.5 seconds at the end of shakedown, with Tänak 0.1s from the fastest time as final adjustments were made to car setups before returning to take on the stage competitively.
The field was similarly closely-matched in SS1, but Tänak was fastest by eight tenths of a second. His team-mates Kris Meeke and Jari-Matti Latvala were both inside the top six, just 1.4 and 1.6 seconds respectively away from the fastest time.
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Rally Challenge Program driver Takamoto Katsuta meanwhile has started his first event in the top class of the sport behind the wheel of a seperately-entered Yaris WRC, safely completing the opening stage of a rally where his aim is to build experience.
Tommi Mäkinen (Team Principal)
“Today was quite unusual for a rally driver, as they could practice driving the same stage at speed several times before the run that counted this evening. To be quickest on the first stage with Ott is a good start, but the times have been very close between all of the drivers all day, which is how it usually is here in Germany. Normally the weather here is quite hard to predict, but at the moment it looks as though it will be consistent and dry: That might make the fight even closer and tougher than usual.”
Ott Tänak (Driver car 8)
“Today was a bit more like circuit racing, driving the same road many times, but the stage is very representative of the rest of the rally, so it was a good way to get a feeling for what’s to come. In shakedown, everything was working from the beginning; we just made some very small adjustments to get the feeling right. Then we had a good run in SS1 this evening. Tomorrow morning, we should have a little advantage running first on a clean road and hopefully we can make the best of it. We certainly need to push hard from the start, as the gaps here in Germany are usually very small.”
Jari-Matti Latvala (Driver car 10)
“There is always an element of adjustment that you have to do when driving on asphalt again after a while on gravel, but I had a really good feeling in shakedown on the first two runs. Then we made some changes to the car, with a different rear differential, but the feeling with that wasn’t so good, so we switched back to our original setup ready for the first stage. I had a sensible run and the time was OK. After Finland, I’m looking to have another strong event, and to finish in the top three again would be perfect.”
Kris Meeke (Driver car 5)
“Having shakedown and the first stage on the same piece of road today was a unique concept. It was a stage that I had never driven before as well, so I did an extra run at the end of the shakedown just to try and get the rhythm into my head before we did it for real this evening. The feeling in the car was quite OK, and there were only a few tenths in it. I’ve always had good speed here in Germany, and I’ve enjoyed driving the Yaris WRC on asphalt so far, so I’m looking forward to the weekend. I hope that we’ll have a clean rally and that we can bring home some strong points.”
End of day one (Thursday):
1 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2m39.4s
2 Dani Sordo/Carlos del Barrio (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +0.8s
3 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +0.9s
4 Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1.0s
5 Kris Meeke/Seb Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1.4s
6 Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1.6s
7 Teemu Suninen/Jarmo Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1.9s
8 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +1.9s
9 Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger-Amland (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +2.5s
10 Gus Greensmith/Elliott Edmondson (Ford Fiesta WRC) +3.0s
(Results as of 20:00 on Thursday, for the latest results please visit www.wrc.com)
The first full day of the rally takes place mostly on the narrow and twisting vineyard roads around Trier on the Stein und Wein and Mittelmosel stages. These are followed by the Wadern-Weiskirchen test, made up of two short laps on roads near to the service park, with the entire loop of three stages then repeated in the afternoon.
Key stage: Mittelmosel (SS3 & SS6, 22.00 kilometres)
Martin Järveoja (Co-driver car 8): “This is a classic stage through the vineyards, but it actually has a mixture of the vineyard roads with lots of hairpins as well as some faster roads through the fields. There’s also a section through a forest near the end, so the rhythm is changing a lot.”
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