Tumult, Torrential Rain, and Three Offs

Day Three of the WRC ADAC Rallye Deutschland started off with sunny skies and smiles with SS9 at 08h03. Rolling over the valleys and hills, came a thunderstorm to wreak havoc on the asphalt stages. The Baumholder military grounds’ Arena Panzerplatte, the signature stages of this event, brought the biggest upsets to the sport this weekend, with a reported double fatality on SS11 Arena Panzerplatte 1 that led to the cancellation of the stage’s second run at 16h54.

Sadly, it is reported that a “Slowly Sideways” crew in the Historic Class of the ADAC Rallye Deutschland went off the slippery roads and struck a tree. The driver and passenger succumbed to their injuries at the scene of the accident. Handbrakes & Hairpins’ thoughts and prayers are with those of their family and friends.

Jari-Matti Latvala (Volkswagen Motorsport) started Day Three where he left Day Two off: fast! The Finn pushed his Polo R WRC hard in the morning loop of three stages, and edged out to 14.8sec over Thierry Neuville (Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team) and 25.8sec over Dani Sordo (Citroën Abu Dhabi World Rally Team). Neuville, racing to the extremes of his skill levels and the limits of the car, he was simply unable to match the Polo R WRC’s superior pace.

The WRC2 battle, with Robert Kubica (LOTOS Citroën DS3 RRC) and Elfyn Evans (Qatar M-Sport Ford Fiesta R5), reached fever pitch in SS9 when the Welshman blasted past the Polish former F1 star to take the Class lead by 2.5sec. Kubica regained the lead on SS10 and pushed in SS11 to finish the morning loop just 1.4sec ahead of Evans. This fight saw Evans claim two of the three stage wins, and only an off slowed his pace.

The spark in the WRC3 Class fizzed out in the morning loop with the Keith Cronin being handed a 01min 30sec time penalty for lateness. Sebastien Chardonnet inherited a cushy lead over the rest of the Citroën DS3 R3T rally machines and maintained an impressive pace at the front over the 41.08km of the Arena Panzerplatte stage.

Pontus Tidemand was unstoppable on the morning loop in the Junior WRC, and put more clean air between himself and the chasing Ford Fiesta R2 field. Michael Burri was second at the mid-day service stop, over 02min adrift of the leader. In third was Martin Koci, but a further 50sec back.

The SS11 Arena Panzerplatte 1 stage was dramatic to say the least. A hinkelstein grazed the right hand side of Latvala’s Polo, but it caused damage than was initially suspected. Team-mate Sebastien Ogier, running under Rally2 rules, set the fastest time through the intimidating stage, and commented in his cheeky way: “It’s OK…the grip is not high enough, with higher grip it could be a great stage…but OK.” If only he didn’t sideline himself on Day Two…

SS12 created the most excitement: torrential rain washed over the asphalt stages to make the roads dirty, slippery and muddy. Latvala went off, ploughing into the German bush. With Miika Anttila battling to call the pace notes and clutch his open car door, it was unsurprising that a mistake would be made. This error forced their retirement while in the lead, rubbing salt into Volkswagen’s wounds.

Nearby, Neuville also left the road and collected a fence post. This was dragged under his Fiesta RS WRC for the duration of the stage, and caused an exhaust problem that robbed his car of valuable engine power.

A weekend of problems for Mads Ostberg came to an end, but in a cruel fashion: he too went off the road in his Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team Fiesta RS WRC to become stuck. He was forced to retire from the event, with an undamaged car. He will take to Day Four’s two stages in an attempt to salvage Power Stage points.

Sliding into the lead at the end of the day’s stages was Sordo. He snatched the lead from Neuville on SS13 by 0.8sec, and it sets up a thrilling two stages for Day Four. Who will claim the top step? Both Sordo and Neuville are hungry for the rally win and will undoubtedly push beyond their limits to sip the winners’ champagne.

Mikko Hirvonen (Citroën Abu Dhabi World Rally Team) slipped into third overall. Fourth, with his best position to date, is Martin Prokop (Jipocar Czech National Rally Team).

The next two cars on the overnight leader board are WRC2 competitors, Kubica and Evans. After the two stages to conclude the day, Kubica was able to gain time on Evans in the adverse weather conditions to end the day 07.8sec ahead of the Welshman. Hayden Paddon (Skoda Fabia S2000) is third in the Class, but 03min behind the leaders. Sepp Wiegand, with whom he was embroiled in a fascinating Skoda Fabia S2000 showdown, picked up a problem and dropped some 09min in stage time to be well off the Kiwi’s racing boots’ heels.

In WRC3, Cronin has seemingly settled into a steady rhythm and is not interested in chasing in Chardonnet for the Class lead. The Frenchman is now nearly 03min in the lead, and is sure to seal the deserved Class win he was robbed of in last month’s WRC Neste Oil Rally Finland.

With the end of Day Three came the conclusion of the Junior WRC. These Ford Fiesta R2 crews put on a stellar display of rallying, and some have most certainly caught the attention of team bosses for the next stage of their careers. Top junior competitor by a country mile was Tidemand. He dominated proceedings, and upstaged his rivals. Burri was the closest, but not enough to be of any worry to the leader. Yeray Lemes was expected to chase Burri, but a late problem with his Fiesta saw him settle for third position.

Day Four comprises of two stages, Dhrontal 1 and 2 0f 24.58km will also see the second run of this form the Power Stage. Action starts at 09h18 and finishes at mid-day. Sebastien Ogier, Jari-Matti Latvala and Mads Ostberg will be going all out to redeem their team bosses and to pinch those Power Stage points. The fight for the victory is far from settled: Sord versus Neuville will be the hightlight of this event. If Neuville’s car is completely repaired and damage-free, Handbrakes & Hairpins will stick its neck out to say this youngster will claim the victory. His speed is superior to that of Sordo, and his determination is pure and passionate. How many hours until the stage starts?

Photos in the below gallery by WorldRallyPics, Citroën Racing and Volkswagen Motorsport.

Top Ten at the end of Day Three:
01) D. Sordo/C. Del Barrio
Citroën DS3 WRC – 02h 43m 48.5s
02) T. Neuville/N. Gilsoul
Ford Fiesta RS WRC + 0.8s
03) M. Hirvonen/J. Lehtinen
Citroën DS3 WRC + 01m 27.6s
04) M. Prokop/M. Ernst
Ford Fiesta RS WRC + 06m 06.3s
05) R. Kubica/M. Baran
Citroën DS3 RRC + 07m 33.1s
06) E. Evans/D. Barritt
Ford Fiesta R5 + 07m 40.9s
07) J-M. Latvala/M. Anttila
Volkswagen Polo R WRC + 09m 27.0s
08) H. Paddon/J. Kennard
Skoda Fabia S2000 + 10m 37.3s
09) M. Ostberg/J. Andersson
Ford Fiesta RS WRC + 12m 27.8s
10) E. Novikov/I. Minor-Petrasko
Ford Fiesta RS WRC + 14m 11.8s

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