It begins with a spectacular climb up the Petit Ballon pass. The road is tree lined, narrow and edged with bollards to stop corner cutting. At 5.5km the road opens out at the top of the col. Spectacular views for the spectators here, but for the crews it’s the start of a dizzying, high-speed descent. The road is grippy and abrasive and the route takes in numerous hairpins and a chicane at the bottom before the flying finish.
How the action unfolded:
Sebastien Ogier claimed his fourth win in five stages today to close in further on the lead of Rally de France - Alsace. The Frenchman climbed to third in his Volkswagen Polo R and now lies just 4.4sec behind Dani Sordo.
Ogier thrived in the mixed conditions, dry in parts and damp in others with plenty of mud on the inside of corners. He was four-tenths of a second quicker than Jari-Matti Latvala with Sordo next, just three-tenths of a second further back in what has become a thrilling four-car battle for supremacy.
“It was a good stage, very tricky with a few corners full of mud,” said Ogier. “Of course I push. Ever since yesterday afternoon I try to push and we have to carry on. It’s a really nice fight. I said before the start there were five guys able to fight for victory and that’s what happened.”
Although conditions were drier than this morning, Latvala found the stage harder. “This morning the road was clean and constantly damp. It was easier because it was consistent. Now it’s partly dry, but it’s more difficult because there are areas which are wet, with mud on the road,” said the Polo R pilot.
Sordo’s lead over Latvala is just 2.6sec, the Spaniard escaping after taking to the grass mid-stage in his Citroen DS3. “I used all the corner!” he smiled. “I went a little bit off the road but nothing important.”
Sebastien Loeb’s challenge took a slight dent when his DS3 handled badly through the test. “I’m not happy. It’s understeering and I don’t know why,” explained the Frenchman, who was 3.7sec slower than Ogier.
What of former leader Thierry Neuville, who lost his advantage with a puncture in the previous test? There was no lasting suspension damage to his Ford Fiesta RS but the Belgian cut a deflated figure at the finish.
“I took it steady,” he said. “I am 1min 10sec behind the leaders and there’s a big gap behind me. I can’t puncture again now with another long stage to go, so I must stay on the road now.”
Neuville was fifth fastest and the top six was rounded off by the similar car of Evgeny Novikov.