Stage data: SS9, Arena Panzerplatte 1 (46.54 kilometres)
By Volkswagen Motorsport co-driver Julien Ingrassia: “I have 118 pages in my pace notes for this stage so we can say there are almost 118 junctions. Luckily the organisers put some little arrows during the recce otherwise we would get lost. Everybody knows this stage and although there are no big changes it’s totally new because it’s running in the reverse direction. Most of the roads are on concrete, 85 per cent, so we will see how the tyres will work, this is always a big question. It’s not such a worry in a Super 2000 car because we don’t have full power but in a World Rally Car you must take care.”
How the action unfolded:
Sebastien Loeb's lead grew to a minute and a half and Jari-Matti Latvala moved up from fifth to second amid huge drama on the famous Arena Panzerplatte stage in Germany.
Petter Solberg, Dani Sordo and Thierry Neuville - who started the stage in second, third and fourth respectively - all hit trouble on the notoriously challenging 46-kilometre stage.
Neuville had to retire after putting his Citroen Junior DS3 off the road, although the team expects him to be able to rejoin under Rally 2 on Sunday.
Solberg stopped his Ford Fiesta RS WRC with damage to the right rear, and is yet to get going again.
Sordo was the only one of the trio to make it to the end, having parked to change a puncture on his MINI.
"We had a really slow puncture at the beginning of the stage and we drove a little bit like that because we weren't sure if it was the tyres moving or a puncture because it was so slow," said Sordo, who would lose two and a half minutes.
"When the tyre went out, we decided to stop and change it. We lost a lot of time, and afterwards we didn't do very well."
That meant Latvala and Mikko Hirvonen moved up to second and third positions, with Latvala just 0.8s down on stage winner Loeb.
"We were three seconds ahead at the beginning, but that's where Loeb was very clever because he was saving his tyres, and then he was fast when my tyres were moving at the end," said Loeb. "That's something else where I can learn."
Loeb said he had barely pushed on the stage as he had been trying to conserve his soft rubber.
"It's very easy - you cannot push," he said. "It's just going through the stage without any mistakes, no problem."
Another man to make a big gain on stage nine was Mads Ostberg. He outpaced Ott Tanak to move ahead of the Estonian in the overall positions, and with three cars ahead hittng trouble, that meant he vaulted from eighth to fourth in just one stage.
Tanak is now fifth ahead of Sordo and Chris Atkinson.