This stage was run last year for the first time, although it may well be more familiar to many drivers from testing in previous seasons. Apart from a new 150 metre section, it is identical to last year, offering a road with a solid base. It is wide and smooth initially and after crossing the main road at 4.7km, it descends on even wider roads, with fewer corners and fast straights.
How the action unfolded:
Sebastien Ogier headed to the short remote service zone in Sassari with a 20.5sec lead in his Volkswagen Polo R after winning his second stage of the loop.
The Frenchman was three-tenths of a second quicker than team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala and cut a relaxed figure at the finish as he recalled memories of winning the same stage in 2012 in a Skoda Fabia S2000.
“Last year here was one of the good points of the year when I did best time. I wasn’t so aggressive this year, especially in the downhill where there were a lot of barriers that I didn’t want to hit,” said Ogier, who added that there were still a few small modifications he would like to make to his Polo R.
Latvala has recovered to seventh after his first stage puncture, the Finn sounding upbeat. “The feeling is good and the car is going really well. It’s a shame about the puncture but we have to move forward,” he told WRC Live.
Mads Ostberg was third in a Fiesta RS, 5.3sec behind Ogier, with Mikko Hirvonen’s Citroen DS3 less than a second adrift. The two are separated by 4.5sec in the overall standings, with Hirvonen holding the advantage in second place.
“Maybe I was a bit too cautious this morning. I held back a bit too much,” admitted Ostberg, whose Michelin tyres looked in surprisingly good condition after such a tough group of stages.
In contrast, Hirvonen said he had been flat out all morning. “Ogier is really fast. I feel that I have to push so hard that I start to make mistakes and don’t get the good times,” he said.
Dani Sordo claimed fifth fastest ahead of Thierry Neuville, who had to throw his Fiesta RS into a spin early in the test to avoid hitting a wall. Sordo is fourth overall, his Citroen DS3 8.1sec clear of Neuville, with Andreas Mikkelsen completing the top six.