Our hopes of a home rally podium were dashed on Saturday when Thierry and Nicolas were forced to stop on the opening stage of the morning.
While negotiating a corner on the 2.87km Arena Panzerplatte Super Special, our Belgian crew caught their rear-left tyre in a cut, which caused irreparable suspension damage.
From third place and chasing a podium, to retiring for the day and re-starting on Sunday under Rally 2 regulations, it was a harsh blow.
“To say that it is a disappointment would be an understatement,” said a despondent Thierry. “We weren’t able to fix it, so had no choice but to stop. The team has worked very hard to get the car ready for tomorrow, when we will give a big push for Power Stage points.”
That left Hayden and Seb as our leading crew, albeit down in eighth place.
Saturday’s itinerary saw three visits to the Arena Panzerplatte as well as two runs through Rallye Deutschland’s signature stage, the long 41.97km Panzerplatte test. Crews also had to tackle the 14.78km Freisen and 12.28km Römerstrasse stages.
Despite a second puncture of the weekend, it was a slightly more encouraging day for our Anglo-Kiwi pair.
“Our day didn’t start in the best manner with another puncture in the first run through Panzerplatte,” reflected Hayden. “Overall our speed today has been better with some top-three stage times.”
Up and under
Friday’s woes left Dani and Marc languishing down the bottom end of the timesheets. However, a trio of fastest stage times on Saturday’s afternoon loop gave some cause for optimism.
“It was definitely an improvement in terms of the feeling in the car,” said a pragmatic Dani, “even if we were struggling with understeer in the afternoon. We probably need to look more closely at the set-up for Sunday’s stages. We have pushed hard, but there is more performance to find.”
Keep calm and rally on
Although we are unlikely to recapture happy memories from past Rallye Deutschland results on Sunday, our Team Principal Michel Nandan remains determined.
“We have to admit that things have not gone to plan this weekend,” he admitted. “In such situations, it is important to react strongly and quickly. We will all keep persevering; it’s not in our nature to give up without a fight!”
Four stages remain on the itinerary, two runs through the 13.02km Losheim am See and 12.95km St. Wendeler Land.
A total distance of 51.94km is left to cover with the second run through St. Wendeler Land acting as the Power Stage, offering drivers an extra chance for championship points, which could prove crucial at the end of the season.
Classification after Day Two
1 O. Tänak / M. Järveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) 2:31:32.2
2 A. Mikkelsen / A.Jaeger (Citroën C3 WRC) +21.4
3 S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +29.6
4 E. Evans / D.Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:48.3
5 J. Hänninen / K. Lindström (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:52.5
6 C. Breen / S. Martin Citroën C3 WRC +2:06.7
7 J.M. Latvala / M. Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +4:04.9
8 H. Paddon / S. Marshall (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +4:31.3