Jan Kopecky leads in Germany as Meeke crashes out
Skoda R5 driver Jan Kopecky took a surprise early Rally Germany lead on Thursday evening's superspecial, on which Kris Meeke crashed out.
Ott Tanak had been fastest of the World Rally Car runners and looked set to begin Friday with the outright rally lead before Kopecky - running further down the start order as he is not registered for WRC2 this weekend - nipped ahead by 0.3 seconds.
Meeke turned in too sharply at one of the 1.3-mile course's many hairpins, clouting the concrete barrier with his Citroen's right-front wheel and instantly breaking the steering.
He limped on for a short distance before parking the car, with the stage then delayed by just over a quarter of an hour as a recovery truck was sent in to retrieve the broken C3.
Citroen should be able to repair the car at service, but Meeke will take a 10-minute Rally2 penalty before beginning Friday's stages.
While Meeke crashed, his Citroen team-mates Craig Breen and Andreas Mikkelsen were third and fourth fastest, having both spent time at the head of the standings.
Ogier equalled Mikkelsen's time, but Neuville admitted he was cautious after seeing Meeke's crash as he had thrown away his Rally Sweden lead in February in a similar superspecial incident.
Jari-Matti Latvala completed the top six in the leading Toyota, with his Rally Finland winning team-mate Esapekka Lappi down in 14th.