Stage description: This test begins with a spectacular climb up the Petit Ballon pass. The road is tree lined, narrow and edged with bollards to stop corner cutting. At 5.5 kms the road exits the trees and opens out at the top of the col. Spectacular views for the spectators here, but for the crews it’s the start of a dizzying, high-speed descent. The road is grippy and abrasive and the route takes in numerous hairpin turns and a chicane at the bottom just before the flying finish.
How the action unfolded:
Sebastien Loeb slipped from fourth to fifth place after a mid stage spin meant he swapped positions with his rival Sebastien Ogier.
In wet and foggy conditions, Loeb completed the stage with his Citroen DS3 undamaged, but now trailing Ogier by one-tenth of a second.
“I spun in a little hairpin and had to reverse two times, it cost me about 10 seconds,” Loeb explained. "The rest was okay, better than the first stage in fact, but we made a mistake…”
Ogier was the stage winner, and feeling increasingly confident at the wheel of his Polo R. “Another good stage for me. I tried to push,” he said, before heading off to SS10.
Rally leader Thierry Neuville was his closest challenger on the stage. The Belgian was just 1.1sec slower through despite limited grip on sections of ultra-smooth shiny asphalt. “It’s dangerous, very fast everywhere and black tarmac that’s just like ice. It’s easy to lock the wheels and lose control,” he said.
Jari-Matti Latvala was third quickest and didn’t agree with Neuville’s assessment. “The grip was better than I expected. It was surprisingly good in places and I took some time to adjust to that. Overall it’s going really well. I managed to get a lot of good confidence. Now I just need to keep my head cool,” he said.
Latvala’s time was good enough to move him up to second, one-tenth ahead of Citroen’s Dani Sordo, who felt he could have been quicker. “It was okay but the last downhill section was really tricky, slippery and fast. Maybe we lost a little there but I’m still happy,” said Sordo.