Another repeat from 2012. The opening kilometres are on wide roads through pine forests and stunning scenery. But at the midpoint it becomes narrower and rougher, before dipping and diving among the trees as it heads to the finish.
How the action unfolded:
Jari-Matti Latvala was quickest through the 18km Kefalari test to claim the 50th stage win for Volkwagen’s Polo R from 95 stage starts this year.
The Finn extended his Acropolis Rally lead to 18.8sec over Dani Sordo, who was second quickest in a Citroen DS3 WRC.
However Latvala, who has won all of the stages this morning, was feeling less than comfortable in his new position as rally leader.
“It’s demanding,” he said. “Before I was the guy who was trying to catch the people ahead, now they are trying to catch me. So the game has changed a bit. I wasn’t very relaxed in there. I have a rhythm but it could be better.”
Sordo completed the stage in a time 3.2sec slower than Latvala’s. “I seem to be losing a lot of time in the slow corners so I took it carefully to try and find out why,” the Spaniard explained.
“I need to learn this for other rough rallies like Sardegna. I need to get better in these sorts of stages. I’m happy though, it’s good.”
Sebastien Ogier was third fastest, and making the most of the opportunity to test his Polo R in the slippery conditions at the field of the field. “We tried to push but it’s not easy. We tried to adapt our set-up to the conditions,” he said.
Ogier’s team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen delivered a heroic Acropolis performance, driving his Polo R through most of the 18km mountain stage with no brakes.
“We lost them after about three kilometres,’ the Norwegian explained. “I pushed the pedal and it went straight to the floor. After 12 or 13 kilometres the brakes started to come back a bit but then, snap, the pedal went to the floor again. I don’t know what it is, but it’s impossible to drive like this.”
Mikkelsen’s problems cost him around 40 seconds, dropping him more than one minute behind third-placed Thierry Neuville in the overall standings.
Neuville was fourth-fastest through SS5. “I was following Andreas’ splits, so when I saw that he slowed I did too. There is no point to risk doing anything more,” he said.
After his broken wheel on Friday, Mads Ostberg experienced more problems and the Norwegian arrived at the finish control with the left-hand front wheel of his Ford Fiesta RS out of alignment. “Something happened on the start line, from the beginning, I don’t know what exactly,” said the Norwegian.
Meanwhile Evgeny Novikov continued to lose time as a consequence of his rock-strike on the previous test. “The brakes are still broken,” he explained. “We can’t fix it because we don’t have any parts until service.”