After the withdrawal of Elfyn Evans, the positions for the rest of the Central European Rally seem to have been taken: Thierry Neuville hurries ahead of the field in the Hyundai to drive home the overall victory quickly but also safely. It would not only be the prestigious success of the historic victory at the premiere of the new WRC event for him. The vice-championship is also back within reach for the Belgian, and every point he scores this weekend could be decisive. The performance of Kalle Rovanperä, who was five seconds behind the overall fastest Sebastien Ogier on SS 12, is similarly controlled: his currently unchallenged second place overall would be enough to win the title. Ott Tänak, on the other hand, is 1:22.6 behind Neuville and Rovanperä in P3 - the fast Ford driver is unlikely to close the gap to the top on his own.
#13 Gregoire Munster (LUX) / Louis Louka (BEL), Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid
“There was a big cut with a lot of mud and I just missed from a bit the cut and so I couldn’t keep it in the good line. And we just went straight, into reverse and go again. It’s actually much more difficult to drive in this car when it’s really dry and you have the aero and everything. Now you see what it’s like to come from Rally2 and try to get adapted to the Rally1 – it’s really fast.”
#18 Takamoto Katsuta (JPN) / Aaron Johnston (IRL), Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid
“I was struggling a lot this morning. The engineers changed my brain - so now its finally working!”
#17 Sébastien Ogier (FRA) / Vincent Landais (FRA), Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid
“First time of the weekend we had a bit of grip but in the mud it’s still extremely slippery. Actually the grip changes are bigger compared to before. You have to be still careful on the mud for sure.”
#8 Ott Tänak (EST) / Martin Järveoja (EST), Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid
“Some places are tricky and muddy. We had a clean run.”
#11 Thierry Neuville (BEL) / Martijn Wydaeghe (BEL), Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid
"This was not the optimal tire choice for this stage. I had to take a lot of care on all the left-handers not to overload the tire and heat it up too much. But apart from that it was a clean stage for us. It would have been nice to run this stage with four slicks. That would have been really interesting or at least entertaining. But we think there is a little bit of a risk of rain on the last stage in the dark, which will be very, very difficult. We decided to take the safe option."
#69 Kalle Rovanperä (FIN) / Jonne Halttonen (FIN), Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid
"It's actually quite nice to have some slick tires under the car as well. We still have a wet one under the car, so that's not perfect, but it's definitely much more pleasant when the roads dry out a bit. But there's still a lot of mud and tricky spots that I take with a grain of salt. Other than that, I try to enjoy it."