Stage description: 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 the narrow roads through the village of Labaroche. It ends with a wider downhill blast to finish line in Orbey.
How the action unfolded:
With just the short Mulhouse street stage left to run today, the fight for victory at Rallye de France is wide open, with the top four separated by just 5.5sec after Saturday’s final ‘proper’ test.
The repeated stage from Soulzeren featured more of Saturday’s varied weather conditions, with rain affecting just about everybody except Thierry Neuville who completed in the fastest time before the heavens opened.
From Sordo backwards, drivers reported rain at the end, then rain from the middle and then rain for the whole stage.
Jari-Matti Latvala was joint second fastest, to lie six-tenths of a second off Dani Sordo’s lead. “It wasn’t easy in there. I can tell you. The cuts were difficult, but I started to find more confidence. When the tarmac is clean then the grip is good, but when there is mud on the road, eurgh! I don’t like that at all. It’s an exciting battle but we have to be clever.”
The Finn began the rally with a clear brief from Volkswagen motorsport director Jost Capito to prioritise manufacturers’ championship points over a rally win. Asked if he might now be able to fight for the victory, Latvala replied: “I don’t know. You’ll have to talk to Mr Capito.”
Sebastien Loeb set the same stage time as Latvala, and arrived at the control in a torrential downpour. “It was raining like hell in there, so bad we were aquaplaning," he said. "It’s a close fight now and of course we’ll do what we can [to win]. We’ll see what we can do tomorrow.”
Sebastien Ogier was fourth quickest, one-tenth slower than Loeb and Latvala. “Lots of rain from my position of fifth on the road. But that’s my fault. If I had done better yesterday perhaps I would have missed the worst of it! It looks like the weather is not on my side here,” he said.
Sordo was fifth fastest in his Citroen DS3, 2.7 sec off Neuville’s pace. “I lost a little time in some of the dirty corners and that knocked my confidence a bit - especially on the downhill section near the end,” he said. Asked if a win was possible, Sordo said: “It’s a nice fight. Let’s see what we can do.”