Stage data: SS18, Bischwiller-Gries 1 (7.95 kilometres)
By Citroen Junior World Rally Team co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul: “It’s a new stage for us. It looks like this road was made only for the rally. It’s fully new Tarmac. It looks like the Ypres Rally as well but there are no bumps and it’s wider. The times between the different competitors should be very close because it’s very fast and there are not so interesting corners. The grip should be okay on this stage.”
How the action unfolded:
Thierry Neuville has claimed another place on Rallye de France Alsace by moving into fourth overall with this second successive stage win aboard his Citroen Junior World Rally Team DS3 WRC in wet conditions.
“I tried to push quite hard, it’s very difficult conditions, sometimes dangerous so I try to stay on the road,” said Neuville. “It’s not easy but we manage well.”
Having dropped to sixth behind Neuville on the previous run, Dani Sordo has overtaken Ford privateer Mads Ostberg for fifth in his MINI John Cooper Works WRC. “I feel really good, it was a really difficult stage, very slippery but it’s okay, I’m happy,” said Sordo, who was 4.5s down on Neuville. “We had a problem with the handbrake blocking the front wheels but now that is repaired.”
Ostberg said: “It didn’t feel good at all, I was just too careful with a lot of standing water in the road. I have to take risks to fight for fourth but I didn’t take any risks. I don’t think this is good enough.”
Event leader Sebastien Loeb, chasing his ninth FIA World Rally Championship title, again opted for a cautious approach in his Citroen. “There is a lot of water and a lot of aquaplaning so I didn’t take any risks,” said Loeb. “I don’t have to win here to be world champion.”
Latvala, in second overall and similarly cautious in the wet conditions, said: “It’s difficult, honestly very difficult in the rain. The car is okay but it’s difficult to find the confidence.”
Mikko Hirvonen, in third place, conceded that catching Latvala for second was unlikely. “It was really tricky on that stage and I had a bit of a scare in a water splash, which was not so comfortable so I took no risks,” said Hirvonen. “Jari-Matti is a little too far ahead now so I just try to get to the finish.”
There was drama for Evgeny Novikov when the Russian went off the road and rolled into a field. He took a couple of minutes to regain the road and completed the run with extensive damage to the front of his M-Sport Fiesta. “It was a fast right-hander, which tightened. It was very slippery where the cuts were and I didn’t know this so my speed was too high. We hope to continue.”
World Touring Car star Yvan Muller was an impressive fourth fastest in his MINI.