The stage begins with a steep climb littered with hairpin corners up a mountainside as far as the Col du Wettstein. After that the character switches to a fast and technical section through the Orbey forest, then onto narrow roads through the village of Labaroche. It ends with a wider downhill blast to the finish in Orbey.
How the action unfolded:
The second morning of Rallye de France-Alsace has been a tale of the two Sebastiens. Volkswagen’s Ogier was fastest through the opening two tests before Citroen’s Loeb secured his 900th stage win in the last of the loop.
Loeb was quickest by 2.9sec in his DS3 from Jari-Matti Latvala and headed towards the 15-minute remote service in Colmar unperturbed by what was a difficult morning up to then.
“In the first stage the settings weren’t good and in the next one I spun, so for the first time I had no problems here, no mistakes. We lost a lot of time yesterday and today, but I’m here to enjoy myself. I don’t need the points so I will drive as I see,” said Loeb, who moved back ahead of Ogier into fourth.
Second fastest for Latvala enabled the Volkswagen Polo R driver to reduce the deficit to leader Thierry Neuville to 13.1sec. Both attacked hard in the wet conditions and while the Finn profited, Neuville was lucky to escape a lurid moment in his Ford Fiesta RS near the finish.
“I was going quite quickly and lost the front under braking. The car understeered wide and I had to use the handbrake. I was a bit lucky to get out,” admitted the Belgian, who was only fifth quickest.
Latvala and Sordo are engaged in a fierce battle behind Neuville, with Latvala claiming second in the previous test and widening his advantage to 1.1sec here. “It’s a fierce fight but it’s very good,” said Latvala. “At the end I did a couple of small mistakes. I attacked the slow corners too hard and understeered too much.”
Sordo was fourth quickest in his DS3 but the Spaniard was content with the morning. “I lost time in the first stage and the next was slippery so I didn’t take risks. This one was OK,” he explained.
Ogier was third and now lies 3.6sec behind Loeb. “I’m quite happy with the morning. Thierry is still quite far ahead but we have to carry on pushing,” said the Polo R pilot, who trails the leader by 23.4sec.
Understeer was a common complaint at the finish. “The understeering is worse, worse, worse. I can’t get the car to turn in,” said Andreas Mikkelsen, who slipped from seventh to ninth this morning.
Mads Ostberg concurred: “Massive, massive understeer,” said the Norwegian who had to grab the handbrake to negotiate the corner where Neuville was caught out.
Martin Prokop, lying 10th overall, completed the stage with his right racing boot wrapped in gaffer tape. “The sole of my boot was gripping the throttle pedal too much and it was difficult to be precise. The tape helps it slip a little better,” he explained.
Robert Kubica remains way out front after chief rival Elfyn Evans dropped almost three minutes yesterday with a puncture. In a glimpse of what might have been, Evans, in a Ford Fiesta R5, was quickest on two of this morning’s tests while Kubica, at the wheel of a Citroen DS3 RRC, was untouchable through SS7. Fiesta R5 driver Rashid Al Ketbi is a distant third, 6min 13sec behind Evans.
Quentin Gilbert continues to lead but is under increasing pressure from a hard- charging Sebastien Chardonnet. Chardonnet began today’s competition 40.4sec adrift of Gilbert, but after two stage wins the gap is down to 27.2sec as crews head to service. Keith Cronin is third, 51.2sec behind Chardonnet. All three are driving Citroen DS3 R3T cars.