Apart from being shortened by 190m at the finish, this is identical to 2012. It winds along the uphill Cinq Chateaux road among the trees before crossing Husseren and Voegtlinshoffen villages. It then enters the famous Goldert vineyard before reaching the Firstplan pass to end on a fast downhill section. It climbs and descends all the way on a variety of surfaces.
How the action unfolded:
Newly crowned world champion Sebastien Ogier bounced back from a lacklustre day yesterday to win a foggy and wet opening stage of today’s second leg.
The Frenchman admitted he was not at his best yesterday at the wheel of his Volkswagen Polo R but came out in determined mood this morning, eager to improve on fifth overall.
He was 1.5sec quicker than leader Thierry Neuville and said: “We have to push and take risks but there was some fog at the top. The feeling is better with the car. It will be hard to catch Thierry but we’ll fight and maybe we can get a place on the podium.”
Several drivers reported that many of the heavyweight poles positioned on the inside of corners to prevent drivers cutting had been moved since the recce earlier in the week.
“There were more cuts than I expected,” admitted Neuville. “I don’t know if the spectators or organisers have moved the poles but we had to change our pace notes. Of course, we took all the cuts to pull the mud onto the road,” smiled the Belgian from inside his Ford Fiesta RS, now enjoying a 15.0sec lead.
Jari-Matti Latvala was third in his Polo R, closing the gap to Dani Sordo in second overall to just three-tenths of a second. “I lost everything in the first two splits. There was a delay at the start and I wasn’t confident we had heat in the tyres when I set off. Once they warmed up it was OK,” said the Finn.
Sordo was fifth in a Citroen DS3, the Spaniard admitting the fog cost him time. “It will be difficult to catch Thierry but we’re not even in the middle of the rally yet,” said Sordo.
Sandwiched in between them in the stage was Sebastien Loeb, 6.0sec slower than Ogier. “There was a lot of understeer in the fast sections and I didn’t trust the car. They are difficult conditions,” said Loeb. Asked if he could catch leader Neuville, the retiring nine-time world champion said: “At the moment, no.”
Mikko Hirvonen and Mads Ostberg were sixth and seventh fastest and both echoed Neuville’s comments about the missing poles. “There are so many corners that are different to the recce when they take the posts away. It’s really annoying but it’s the same for everyone,” said Hirvonen.