Right after the start ceremony in the Bostalsee service park, competitors launch into a new opening stage. Unlike previous years it’s not a circuit test but a sprint over country roads. Drivers should be quickly into the groove as they tackled this test several times earlier this morning in shakedown.
He was quickest through the St Wendeler Land special stage in his Toyota Yaris to head Dani Sordo’s Hyundai i20 by 0.8sec. World champion Sébastien Ogier was a tenth further back in a Citroën C3.
The drivers knew every centimetre of the country lane test having driven it several times earlier today in shakedown and just three seconds covered the top 10. Evidence of how hard Tänak was trying was clear as he finished with both wing mirrors missing.
“I think it will be extremely tight, the stages are really fast. We try to win every rally and this weekend will be no different,” said the Estonian.
Thierry Neuville was fourth in another i20, a second off the pace, with Yaris team-mates Kris Meeke and Jari-Matti Latvala completing the top six.
Esapekka Lappi was joint fastest at the mid-stage split but the Finn slid his C3 wide at a chicane and dropped to eighth. Andreas Mikkelsen was one place further back after easing off when he mistakenly thought he had a puncture in his i20.
The rally resumes tomorrow (Friday) with a leg focused on the Mosel’s narrow and bumpy vineyard service roads.
Stein und Wein (19.44km) and Mittelmosel (22.00km) are littered with tight hairpins before the action switches to the tricky lapping country road stage at Wadern-Weiskirchen (9.27km). All three tests are driven twice.