Run in the same format in 2012, Gandesa begins on Tarmac for 800 metres before it switches to gravel for the rest of the stage. The road is medium wide, fast and smooth with plenty of corners and hard braking. Expect some road cleaning here.
How the action unfolded:
Sebastien Ogier stepped up the pressure on Jari-Matti Latvala by winning this afternoon’s opening stage to climb to second and reduce the deficit to his team-mate to just 10.4sec.
A breeze meant hanging dust was no longer an issue and the Frenchman was fastest in his Volkswagen Polo R by 2.5sec from Thierry Neuville. However, more importantly, he was 4.0sec quicker than Latvala and 4.2sec ahead of Dani Sordo, who was relegated to third on the leaderboard.
“I could not have gone faster, except for maybe a little bit at the beginning,” said Ogier, for whom this was his 100th stage win of the season. “I’m not leading yet, but I want to be in the lead at the end of the last stage, I don’t care about here.”
First-on-the-road Latvala found improved grip in his Polo R compared to the morning pass, but it still wasn’t ideal.
“There’s more grip on the gravel but still in some places it’s slippery,” said Latvala. “There’s loose gravel on top of the clean line. Sometimes I thought something was wrong because I was sliding, and then on the next corner the grip was OK. That’s part of the job of opening the road.”
Sordo was content but the Spaniard could not match the pace of his rivals. “At the beginning I was slower than Jari-Matti but then we took a bit of time back. It was very hard for the tyres but I had a good feeling on the gravel,” he explained.
Neuville was much more upbeat than this morning. “We changed the settings in the differential which has given us more traction. We checked the car in service and couldn’t find anything, so I think I had a few options this morning and probably took the wrong one,” said the Belgian.
Mads Ostberg slotted in third fastest in his Fiesta RS after a good run but Mikko Hirvonen lost time with a spin.
“I did the same thing as when I retired in Sardinia, but this time I didn’t get stuck. At a hairpin I went off the road and had to reverse back. It was stupid to throw the time away,” said the Finn, who remains fourth, 21.6sec ahead of Neuville.
Also spinning was Andreas Mikkelsen, who dropped more than 10sec in his Polo R.