This stage combines various routes from previous years and also uses a large section from this year’s SS1 and SS2 so conditions will be rough. It starts on a narrow but quick road, with plenty deep gravel on the surface. After using wider roads, the test switches to asphalt and picks up the route of Friday’s opening two stages towards the finish. The last 700 metres are exclusive to this stage and the final three corners are probably the roughest of the rally, the road covered by raised bedrock.
How the action unfolded:
Norway’s Andreas Mikkelsen moved up to fourth on the 30km Loutraki, when another stage-winning performance in his Polo R got him ahead of Nasser Al-Attiyah.
Mikkelsen heads to the midday service with a 1.9sec advantage over Ford Fiesta RS driver Al-Attiyah.
“It was a good stage,” acknowledged Mikkelsen. “Rough in places, so we had to try and take care of the car as well as go fast, which wasn’t easy. I made three or four mistakes when I got out of the lines and lost traction, but otherwise no problems.”
Attiyah was not surprised to have lost the place and said it wouldn’t affect his event strategy. “I knew he would go fast and now he has passed us, but we’ll keep at this pace. I don’t want to take any more risks and maybe there will be mistakes ahead - it’s very rough.”
For the three drivers in the provisional podium positions - Jari-Matti Latvala, Dani Sordo and Thierry Neuville - stage 12 was all about managing risk and getting their cars through cleanly.
Sordo’s stage end comments summed up their approach: “I’m trying not to make any mistakes, so no risks. Just trying to drive in the middle of the road and take it easy. At the same time I need to stay concentrated - it’s very easy to make a mistake.”
After earlier problems dropped them out of contention for the rally win, Sebastien Ogier, Evgeny Novikov, Mikko Hirvonen and Mads Ostberg used the first pass through Loutraki to check their pace notes ahead of the afternoon repeat as the Power Stage - and the chance to bag three drivers' championhip points.
Ostberg also took the oppotunity to test a new suspension set-up with his Ford Fiesta RS. “It’s changed the way the front of the car behaves in the ruts and I was surprised in a few places by how well it works,” he said. “The change led to a small spin, but I'm happy with the way the wheels hold the line. It looks good for the Power Stage.”