Stage data: SS11, Pays de la Haute Bruche 1 (24.04 kilometres)
By Citroen Junior World Rally Team co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul: “For us it’s a new stage. I remember part of this stage when I did the Rally of Alsace in the French Tarmac championship but that was a long time ago and I only remember some corners. The first part is narrow and bumpy and we have to be careful for the first five kilometres. Then we join a main road and all the rest of the stages are uphill, wide with a lot of grip.”
How the action unfolded:
Thierry Neuville has overtaken Dani Sordo for fourth place on Rallye de France Alsace amid suggestions the young Belgian will incur a time penalty due to an issue at a control on the FIA World Rally Championship counter.
Neuville, in a Citroen Junior World Rally Team DS3 WRC, was 3.4s faster than MINI John Cooper Works WRC driver Sordo through the stage to move 0.3s ahead of his rival, despite dropping his rear wheels off the road sliding wide at a hairpin.
Mads Ostberg, in sixth overall, is now 1.8s behind Sordo after he also went quicker than the Spaniard.
Out front, Jari-Matti Latvala has hit back from his off-road moment on stage 11 by beating Sebastien Loeb to the fastest time through Pays de la Haute Bruche. He was 3.2s quicker than Loeb but remains 30s down on the Frenchman in the overall classification. “I love stages like this, I don’t like driving in forests when it’s damp,” said the Ford Fiesta RS WRC driver. “I try but Sebastien has shown how strong he is on Tarmac. I am closer to him but I still need to work to be a good Tarmac driver.”
Loeb adopted a slightly more cautious approach through the stage in his Citroen DS3 WRC. He said: “I had a good lead before the stage so I didn’t start very aggressive and it was a bit difficult for me,” said Loeb. “The road was between dry and humid and I didn’t know what was the grip. I was struggling a bit so I have to push harder in the next one.”
Evgeny Novikov was fifth fastest in his M-Sport Fiesta despite a moment when he touched a patch of gravel running in sixth gear.