Stage data: SS1, Strasbourg (3.63 kilometres)
By Citroen Junior World Rally Team co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul: “We don’t get to recce this stage until close to the stage starting but there will be a lot of concrete edges so it will be quite tricky. Because of this the stage can catch us out and we have to be very clever because there is nothing to win in this type of stage.”
How the action unfolded:
Thierry Neuville is the early leader of Rallye de France Alsace after he went fastest through the 3.63-kilometre Strasbourg stage this evening.
Driving a Citroen DS3 WRC, the Belgian youngster set a 2m44.7s in increasingly fading light to top the leaderboard by 0.8s ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala, who said he made a small mistake in his factory Ford Fiesta RS WRC. Neuville, meanwhile reckoned he lost a few vital seconds sliding wide at one corner.
Dani Sordo said he didn’t take many risks at the wheel of his Prodrive MINI John Cooper Works WRC after he shared the joint third fastest time with Mikko Hirvonen and Petter Solberg.
Sebastien Loeb’s co-driver Daniel Elena’s protégé Sebastien Chardonnet impressed on his first WRC outing in a Citroen DS3 WRC by outpacing the eight-time world champions by 0.2s, 1.4s down on Neuville in sixth position.
Loeb said: “It was okay but I struggled on the first loop because I was not so happy with my pace notes. We did the recce for this stage not in my normal recce car and the notes were a bit wrong. I tried to adjust my rhythm on the second lap.”
Nasser Al-Attiyah suffered a spin in the second corner and dropped 20 seconds at the wheel of his Qatar World Rally Team Citroen. He reported a knock to his right-rear wheel in the process. Martin Prokop said his Fiesta was being hobbled by an engine misfire.
Chris Atkinson reported a moment when he locked up the brakes of his WRC Team MINI Portugal entry. Yvan Muller suggested a power issue had slowed his Prodrive-run MINI, while Romain Dumas said he was experiencing understeer in his MINI.
Craig Breen set the pace in the Super 2000 World Rally Championship, while Alastair Fisher was the fastest FIA WRC Academy runner, earning a championship point in the process. However, there was despair by category rival Timo van der Marel, who took the right-wheel off his Fiesta R2.
Friday’s action begins with the 28.67-kilometre Hohlandsbourg-Firstplan test at 09:23hrs local time.