SS8: Freisen 1, 14.78km
Freisen is the first of two fast country lane stages, including a couple of chicanes to keep speeds in check. The roads are narrow for much of the test with plenty of opportunities to cut corners, although bales have been positioned in places to prevent bigger cuts. It starts in Berschweiler and ends south of Freisen, crossing from Rhineland-Palatinate state into Saarland en route.
SS9: Römerstraße 1, 12.28km
Another narrow countryside test, although there are a couple of forays onto wider main roads – a 2km section after the start with sweeping corners between fields and a short link after 5.6km. There are plenty of fast straights, some parts are lined by trees and a couple of chicanes to control the speeds. A small jump on the outskirts of Urexweiler followed by a tricky left turn will keep drivers focused.
Tänak more than doubled his overnight advantage to 6.7sec in a Toyota Yaris as a mistake under braking in the morning’s second Römerstraße speed test provided an early setback for the Belgian.
Neuville cut 1.3sec from Tänak’s 2.8sec lead in the opening Freisen country lane test, but it went wrong in the next stage as chased down the Estonian.
“I was at a junction and I was late on the brakes and stalled a little bit the engine. We had trouble starting the engine as a fuse was gone,” explained Neuville, who was ninth fastest and more than five seconds off the pace.
Tänak capitalised by winning the stage. “I had a good stage and pushed a bit more than the previous one. The surface was cleaner so it was less risk. The first stage was dirty but it wasn’t a problem because me and Thierry are in the same place on the road,” he said.
Sébastien Ogier remained in third, 19.1sec behind Neuville and still unhappy with his Citroën C3. “The characteristics are a bit different but it still needs to be better. The car is difficult to drive and we’re fighting it the whole time,” said the Frenchman.
Kris Meeke was 3.8sec behind Ogier and 3.6sec ahead of team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala. Both Toyota drivers skimmed roadside hay bales in Freisen and Latvala was unhappy with his driving, promising to ‘get back to basics’.
The top six was completed by Andreas Mikkelsen in an i20, despite sliding into a Freisen field. He had 4.6sec in hand over Esapekka Lappi who closed with second fastest in Römerstraße.
Dani Sordo topped the times in Freisen and climbed to eighth after problems for Gus Greensmith. The Briton dropped almost three minutes after clipping a tree. He punctured his Ford Fiesta’s rear right tyre and changed a bent steering arm on the liaison section afterwards.