This stage has changed a lot, with new sections and others used in the opposite direction. It is the roughest test of the rally, especially at the start where the ruts from last year have been filled with loose rocks. The opening 2km is full of first gear corners, leading into faster roads. At 6 km it emerges from the forest onto more traditional sandy Sardinian roads, with long corners and an asphalt section.
How the action unfolded:
Andreas Mikkelsen received a birthday present he didn’t want when his pursuit of Dani Sordo ended in retirement with broken suspension in his Volkswagen Polo R.
The Norwegian, who is 24 today, had slashed the gap between himself and Sordo to just 11.5sec in their fight for fourth. However, just 4km after the start Mikkelsen slid wide in a slow corner and an impact damaged his suspension, bringing him to a halt.
It relieved the pressure on Sordo, whose Citroen DS3 is now more than five minutes clear of Martin Prokop’s Ford Fiesta RS. However, the Spaniard had issues of his own that concerned him at the stage finish.
“We stalled at the start line and after that I was flat out. I was a bit lucky, and I’m sorry for him because it’s not nice. I need to improve myself, but we need to work on the car also, work more on the traction,” said Sordo.
Sebastien Ogier won the stage by 1.0sec from Thierry Neuville. With a comfortable lead, the Frenchman could afford to think about the forthcoming Power Stage.
“If I take points l’ll be happy but I’m sure Thierry and Jari-Matti will try. We thought a bit about the tyres and tried to save them for the Power Stage,” said the Polo R pilot.
Neuville was also thinking about the possibility of bonus points. “I followed Jari-Matti’s splits and the gap is OK. He will push in the Power Stage for points so we have to also,” said the Belgian Ford Fiesta RS pilot.
Latvala was third quickest, 1.4sec behind Ogier, and the third-placed Finn has resigned himself to not being able to catch Neuville ahead.
“I tried to have a little push but not a big one,” he said. “It was just to keep the rhythm. I can’t catch Thierry, he is going far too well for me to catch him by driving alone, but on this rally you never know what can happen.”
Mikkelsen’s demise means Elfyn Evans now rounds off the top six on his debut in a World Rally Car.