Sébastien Ogier appeared ever more comfortable as he extended his lead in the Corsica linea - Tour de Corse on Saturday morning.
Stage info: SS6/7
SS6: Désert des Agriates 1, 15.45km
The Désert des Agriates is a barren, wild and beautiful wilderness and the only ‘official’ desert in Europe. It is crossed by just one road and this comprises the stage, which starts on the edge of the hamlet of Casta. A wide, fast route traverses uninhabited ‘maquis’ 300m above sea level. After crossing the Vezzo pass, a quick downhill section brings crews to the finish.
SS7: Novella 1, 17.39km
One of the few tests unchanged from 12 months ago. Crews start close to the Pietra Monetta inn on a narrow, twisty road in the middle of the ‘maquis’ and tackle several difficult corners to reach Novella village and its picturesque train station. After the La Croix pass, a narrow, winding downhill road with a worn surface leads to the finish. Drivers must be wary of punctures here if they cut corners too deeply.
He returned to the Bastia service park following a loop of three speed tests with a 41.6sec advantage over Thierry Neuville and promised there was more pace if he needed it.
Ogier was third in the new Désert des Agriates special stage and second in the more familiar Novella in his Ford Fiesta.
“I tried to confirm the pace notes in the first one. It was all new and it’s never super easy to go flat out. I’m not driving 100 per cent today. I’m driving to be clean and smooth, especially in the dirty sections. I’m not going to take full risks,” he explained.
Having seen his advantage over Kris Meeke almost wiped out in the opening test, Neuville eased away again and headed the Briton by 5.2sec in his Hyundai i20.
“There’s not much more I can do, I was moving all over the place and struggling a lot with the handling in the first one. This car is not made for conditions like those, but I can be happy with my time in the last one,” said the Belgian.
Meeke escaped after clipping a kerb early in Désert des Agriates but the Citroën C3 pilot was concerned at his ‘awful’ pace in both tests. He cast an anxious look over his shoulder at a fast-closing Ott Tänak.
The Estonian won Novella after finishing second in the previous stage to slash the deficit to 2.1sec. “The changes we did to the car yesterday were good. We made a few mistakes in the long opening stage, this afternoon we’ll go without the mistakes,” he said.
Toyota Yaris team-mate Esapekka Lappi remained fifth with top four times in both stages, his pace carrying him clear of the fighting Dani Sordo and Elfyn Evans. The Spaniard moved ahead of Evans, who admitted hesitating in several places.
Locking rear brakes hampered Jari-Matti Latvala in SS6 but after changing the balance he felt more confident in his Yaris. He was eighth, with an understeering Andreas Mikkelsen and Bryan Bouffier completing the leaderboard.
Sébastien Loeb won Désert des Agriates, his second victory of the morning in his Citroën C3.
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