This stage is shorter than last year with the removal of a 2.4km section midway through. It starts in Drachenbronn and follows a wide and fast road to Cleebourg, via some long corners. The road narrows as it enters a vineyard, but becomes faster as it approaches another village before climbing to a plateau and the finish.
How the action unfolded:
Dani Sordo refused to settle for second in Rallye de France - Alsace when he clawed back almost four seconds on leader Sebastien Ogier during the opening stage this afternoon.
The Spaniard won the stage by 0.4sec in his Citroen DS3 from Thierry Neuville’s Ford Fiesta RS. But, more importantly, he was 3.7sec quicker than Ogier’s Volkswagen Polo R to reduce the deficit between the pair to 10.0sec with two tests remaining.
“I lost time here this morning but the conditions are even more tricky now. It’s muddy but it’s a good fight with Jari-Matti for second. We’ll see about Ogier….” said Sordo, who stretched his advantage over third-placed Jari-Matti Latvala to 13.7sec.
Ogier appeared rattled at the stage finish, although the Frenchman played down any concerns after setting fourth fastest time. “I didn’t push. That’s my strategy now. It’s all OK,” he said, before heading off for the penultimate test.
If Sordo thought he was battling Latvala, then the Finn had a different view on the situation. “It’s quite bad there and I’m not good in muddy conditions. I don’t like it and I’m not confident enough to push in those conditions. It seems quite clear that I will be third on the podium,” he said.
Neuville survived a half-spin, the Belgian explaining: “It’s like cross-country riding! I went wide at a junction. I turned late with the handbrake and lost one or two seconds.”
Mads Ostberg dropped a minute in his Fiesta RS after sliding off the road at a tight left bend, slipping behind Mikko Hirvonen and Andreas Mikkelsen in the overall standings.
“We went wide and got stuck and needed help from the spectators,” said the Norwegian. “We had problems with the brakes earlier and I only have rear brakes. I worked a lot on the road section. We worked on the car right up to the start and things were stressed.”