After four special stages of this year's International ADMV Lausitz Rally, Erik Cais (CZE) is leading by 2.1 seconds ahead of Anders Grondal (NOR). Third place overall is occupied by Matthias Kahle (DEU), 7.7 seconds behind.

Erik Cais kleinA total of 77 teams started Germany's most popular gravel rally in Boxberg at 15:15 in mixed weather. On Friday afternoon and evening, the special stages "Arena" (11.12 kilometres) and "Mulkwitz" (8.80 kilometres) were two equally popular and challenging stages on the programme.

After the shakedown had not yet revealed a clear favourite, local hero Matthias Kahle in the Skoda Fabia R5 took the lead with a best time of 06:50,6 minutes on SS "Arena", 7,0 seconds ahead of his first rival, four-time Lausitz Rally winner Anders Grondal in the Ford Fiesta R5 from Norway.

However, Grondal set the best time on SS 2 in 05:36,5 minutes ahead of the Czech Erik Cais (Ford Fiesta Rally2). With this, Grondal shortens the gap to Kahle by 5,7 seconds and the gap to the leading German is a marginal 1,4 seconds after two stages. Afterwards, the teams go into the first 30-minute service.

Lausitz Rallye Start Satorius kleinThe second run "Arena" (SS 3) in the darkness sees Erik Cais in front, followed by Grondal and Kahle. All three are within a hair's breadth of each other in the overall classification, the gap is less than one second. The fourth and last special stage on Friday was won by Erik Cais ahead of Grondal and Kahle.

In the chasing positions Daniel Chwist (POL), Martin Vlcek (CZE) and Björn Satorius (DEU) fight for the other places with a minute gap to the top.

The TOP 5 go into the night's rest in the following order:

1st Erik Cais / Petr Tesinsky (CZE / CZE, Ford Fiesta Rally2) 25:08,6 min.
2nd Anders Grondal / Magnus Fuglerud (NOR / NOR, Ford Fiesta R5) +00:02,1
3rd Matthias Kahle / Christian Doerr (DEU / DEU, Skoda Fabia R5) +00:07,7
4th Daniel Chwist / Kamil Heller (POL / POL, Hyundai i20 R5) +01:18,8
5th Martin Vlcek / Karolina Jugasova (CZE / CZE, Hyundai i20 R5) +00:37,0

Challenging track conditions
The track conditions were much more challenging than in the dry previous years due to the completely rainy Thursday. Especially standing water and rutted tracks made it difficult for the two-wheel drive cars. A positive side effect: dust was not an issue.

As every year, the first kilometres of competition also take their toll. Werner Löseke in his Volvo 944 did not see the finish of the first special stage due to a technical defect, Thomas Schultz in his Renault Clio rolled out on SS 1 with a defective drive shaft and Sven Senglaub rolled out his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo on SS 3.

Youngsters do well
The following picture emerges for the three 16-year-old drivers after the first stage: Fabio Schwarz was the fastest Rally4 driver after SS 3 in a sensational 15th place overall, before a drive shaft failure stopped him one kilometre before the end of the fourth stage. Jonas Müller (57th place) got stuck in the deeply rutted sand on SS 3, his younger brother Liam made it through Friday despite gearbox problems and took a very good 39th place overall in the Opel Adam R2.

Author: Björn Fröbe
Photos: Bastian & Frank Hartmann