The final day begins in Surkee, which translates into ‘miserable’! It is a mix of wide and narrow roads and demands the ability to adapt to constant rhythm changes. There is a tough technical section among the trees early on, with many short corners and no regular flow and after a wide part, it ends with a long stretch of narrow tracks.
How the action unfolded:
Norway’s Mads Ostberg went quickest on Saturday's opening stage, to overcome Thierry Neuville's slender overnight advantage and move up to second.
Back in the position he lost yesterday after a puncture, Ostberg is more than 30 seconds off the lead in his Ford Fiests RS but satisfied with his start to the final day. “It was a good stage and I tried to push as hard as I can. So far it’s going quite well,” he said.
Also in a Fiesta RS, Neuville’s chances of keeping the position had taken a knock on the first junction. “I went straight on at the first right hander and lost about five seconds. On these roads it’s just not possible to get that amount of time back,” said the Belgian, who now trails Ostberg by 3.1sec.
Volkswagen’s rally leader Sebastien Ogier was only fifth fastest, but relaxed about giving away a few seconds of his advantage to ensure a clean run. “I’m not in a position to take risks, so I took a bit of time to start my day,” he said. “I prefer to start like this and then increase the pace as I find my rhythm.”
Behind the lead trio, an intriguing battle for fourth was brewing between Citroen ace Mikko Hirvonen and the manufacturer’s stand-in driver Kris Meeke in fifth.
The gap between the pair had narrowed to just 8.1sec overnight after Rally Stewards credited Meeke with 23 seconds because he had been held up by the damaged Fiesta RS of Evgeny Novikov on Stage eight.
Novikov received a reprimand from the Stewards for not pulling over promptly to allow Meeke by.
Round one of the Citroen duel went to Hirvonen, who had a clean run in the second fastest time, while Meeke was lucky to avoid an accident within sight of the finish.
“We did a full 360 spin at the last junction,” he said. “We had to stop and reverse a few times to get going again. Okay, a small mistake but I reckon it cost us about 10 seconds.”
The pair set off for SS7 separated by 16.6seconds.