Stage data: SS3, Vallee de Munster 1 (22.16 kilometres)
By Citroen Junior World Rally Team co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul: “Half of this stage is in vineyards, a bit like in Germany, but the second fast is in a forest. This section is quite slow and it can be wet under the trees. There are several cuts as well so it can be muddy. The Tarmac is quite old so the grip is not so good. It helps to be as far as front on the road as possible, otherwise you need to hope for dry conditions.”
How the action unfolded:
Jari-Matti Latvala has demoted countryman Mikko Hirvonen for second place on Rallye de France Alsace with an impressive run through the event’s third stage.
Latvala, in a Ford Fiesta RS WRC, was 0.8s slower than event leader Sebastien Loeb (Citroen DS3 WRC) and a full seven seconds faster than fellow Finn Hirvonen after benefitting from his decision to opt for four soft-compound tyres for the damp stage. “They were the best choice for this stage but Loeb also did an incredible time,” said Latvala.
Loeb, meanwhile, bolted the two soft-compound tyres he was carrying as spares on the rear of his car and was satisfied with his performance during the run, which he said was more slippery than he expected.
Mikko Hirvonen mirrored his Citroen team-mate’s tyre choice but said he wasn’t brave enough through the test, which featured some wet sections. The Finn was 7.8s slower as a result.
Thierry Neuville was third fastest in his Citroen Junior entry, 2.9s down on Loeb. The Belgian’s performance puts him ahead of Petter Solberg into fifth overall behind MINI pilot Dani Sordo.
Mads Ostberg edged Solberg in the battle to be top Norwegian by 1.1s, despite admitting to struggling for traction in the damp areas of the stage in his privateer Fiesta. Solberg, meanwhile, reported a lack of “feeling” in his Fiesta after going 10s slower than Loeb.