Trier (Germany) (AFP) - Championship leader Ott Tanak ended Saturday with a 32.4 second lead at the Rally of Germany as his title rivals Thierry Neuville and Sebastien Ogier suffered untimely punctures on the dreaded Panzerplatte stages.
Toyota driver Tanak had seen his lead narrowed to just 5.0 seconds after Neuville won two early stages in the countryside around Trier, near to the Luxembourg border.
Yet the Estonian hit back as the race changed surfaces later on, winning two of four stages across the formidable Panzerplatte, the tank training roads on the Baumholder military base.
Hyundai's Neuville slipped down to fifth after losing over a minute due to a puncture in the 13th stage.
"We had a puncture on the rear-left. It is a lottery and we were really unlucky," said the Belgian.
Tanak now holds a commanding 32.4s lead over second-placed Toyota driver Kris Meeke, who won the 15th stage late on Saturday.
The Estonian looks on course to secure a third successive victory at the Rally of Germany and move one step closer to unseating reigning world champion Sebastien Ogier.
Frenchman Ogier is a distant eighth in his Citroen, over two minutes off the lead.
Ogier's faint hopes of catching Tanak were ended when he too picked up a puncture in the last stage of the day.
"The whole rally has been disappointing and we didn't need this bad luck on top of it," he said.
1. Ott Tanak-Martin Jarveoja (EST/Toyota Yaris) 2h27:21.9,
2. Kris Meeke-Sebastian Marshall (GBR/Toyota Yaris) at 32.4,
3. Jari-Matti Latvala-Mikka Anttila (FIN/Toyota Yaris) at 41.8,
4. Dani Sordo-Carlos Del Barrio (ESP/Hyundai i20) at 1:10.8,
5. Thierry Neuville-Nicolas Gilsoul (BEL/Hyundai i20) at 1:35.2
6. Andreas Mikkelsen-Anders Jaeger (NOR/Hyundai i20) at 1:37.3,
7. Esapekka Lappi-Janne Ferm (FIN/Citroen C3) at 1:43.1,
8. Sebastien Ogier-Julien Ingrassia (FRA/Citroen C3) at 2:09.7,
9. Gus Greensmith-Elliott Edmondson (GBR/Ford Fiesta) at 6:02.6,
10. Takamoto Katsuta-Daniel Barritt (JPN-GBR/Toyota Yaris) at 6:57.4