Stage data: SS17, Vignoble de Cleebourg 1 (17.08 kilometres)
By Citroen Junior World Rally Team co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul: “We enjoy a lot this stage, it will be the Power Stage for the second loop. It’s a different style this stage, a bit like what you find in Belgium and the Ypres Rally with a lot of 90-degree junctions, very sharp. The road is always very narrow, bumpy with a lot of cuts and gravel on the road, especially for the second loop. After this we go to the passage control in the place where Sebastien Loeb grew up, Oberhoffen-sur-Moder. It’s very important you go here and if not you have to retire because it’s obligatory.”
How the action unfolded:
Thierry Neuville has taken fifth place on Rallye de France Alsace after claiming his second stage win on the FIA World Rally Championship qualifier based in Strasbourg.
Neuville, in a Citroen DS3 WRC, was 4.5s faster than MINI John Cooper Works WRC pilot Dani Sordo on Sunday’s rain-hit opening stage. As a result he moves ahead of the Spaniard in the overall classification and is now 2.1s behind fourth-placed Mads Ostberg, who lost time when he briefly went off the road on the inside of a hairpin and momentarily struggled for traction.
“I pushed very hard in this one,” said Belgian Neuville. “They were very difficult conditions, very slippery with some big, big slides but we managed to get through. Fourth place is our aim since Friday and we want to get it.”
Sordo reported a problem with his car’s handbrake, which, when engaged, applied the front brakes. Evgeny Novikov lost time when he overshot a junction and went into a field, while Martin Prokop said his car was “very nervous” on the straights due to a possible set-up issue.
Out front, rally leader Sebastien Loeb was 16.0s slower than Neuville after a “couple of big moments” but he maintains a healthy advantage over Ford Fiesta RS WRC pilot Jari-Matti Latvala in second. The gap between them is 27.3s with five stages remaining.
“There is a lot of water in the ruts so we were aquaplaning everywhere,” said Loeb. “We had a couple of big moments in there. It started well but it was very difficult so we took it easy towards the end.