SS12: Arena Panzerplatte 1, 10.73km
The shorter of the two Panzerplatte stages on the daunting Baumholder military ranges is nevertheless 1.30km longer than last year and driven in the opposite direction. It features the famous Gina jump and a mix of surfaces, covering smooth and broken asphalt, cobble stones and bumpy concrete.
SS13: Panzerplatte 1, 41.17km
The longest stage of the rally and one of the toughest of the season with 89 junctions packed into less than 42km. The surface changes constantly and many roads are lined with hinkelsteins, massive concrete kerbs designed to keep tanks on the military tracks. It has everything – wide, narrow and mid-sized roads and surfaces ranking from smooth asphalt to cobbles. Slippery sand coats the surface in the dry while in the wet conditions are treacherous. Driven in the opposite direction to 2018 with some new sections.
Tänak emerged from the first pass over the military ranges with a 42.6sec advantage in his Toyota Yaris as the leaderboard was turned upside down in the marathon 41.17km multi-surfaced Panzerplatte speed test.
Neuville started the stage 5.6sec adrift of Tänak, but his victory hopes were over after just 4.5km.
“We had a puncture on the rear left. It’s a lottery and we were really unlucky. We were in the middle of the road so I don’t know where that came from, but the rally isn’t over yet,” explained the Belgian who plunged to seventh.
Tänak was fastest in both the short Arena Panzerplatte and the longer version. “It was a tough and long stage. Not the perfect feeling but I guess it was the same for everyone,” said the Estonian.
It wasn’t a great afternoon for Sébastien Ogier either. He held onto third through the arena test in his Citroën C3, but was overhauled by Kris Meeke and Jari-Matti Latvala in the long stage as Toyota Gazoo Racing took a clean sweep of the podium places.
“Unfortunately it was kind of expected. I gave everything I have,” said the disappointed Frenchman, who ended the stage with a rear left puncture. Meeke had 2.6sec in hand over his team-mate, with Ogier five-tenths behind in his Citroën C3.
Dani Sordo continued his positive day. Second Panzerplatte promoted the Spaniard ahead of i20 team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen into fifth. The gap between them was 6.4sec.
With Neuville at the rear of a three-car i20 train, there could be an opportunity for his Hyundai Motorsport team to promote him up the order to benefit his title challenge.
Esapekka Lappi remained eighth, the Finn cracking his C3’s windscreen after a heavy landing over the Gina jump in the arena test. Ninth-placed Takamoto Katsuta dropped time after overshooting a corner 600 metres after the start of the same stage.