Surkee, which translates into ‘miserable’ 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:
With rally leader Sebastien Ogier seemingly untouchable at the head of the field – and taking another stage win here - all eyes were on the fight for second between Ford Fiesta RS drivers Mads Ostberg and Thierry Neuville.
The pair left the preceding service with Ostberg [pictured] ahead by just 2.8sec, and under instruction from their Team Principal Malcolm Wilson to keep on fighting.
“In normal circumstances you would probably say, okay, lets hold station, but with Mikko only 20 seconds back and 70 kilometres still to go, they can’t afford to ease off,” said Wilson.
“Although the car liveries look the same, Mads and Thierry drive for different teams, so the way I see it, they’re going to have to drive the rest of this rally flat-out. I want to see them have a good battle right to the end.”
Out on stage the pair were as close as ever, with Neuville fractionally faster to reduce the gap between them to two seconds dead.
At the finish, Neuville said he could have been faster had it not been for a concern about his tyres. “Towards the end it felt like I had a puncture at the rear,” he said. “I had hit a stone and wasn’t sure, so I took it a bit carefully.”
Ostberg had a clean run, despite a stage surface that was more rutted than the morning pass. “Difficult conditions but we did quite okay I think. Not perfect but not bad. I’m enjoying the fight,” he said.
Citroen’s Mikko Hirvonen was fifth fastest on Michelin’s hard-compound option tyre, having switched from the soft compound used by his rivals.
“We think the hard tyre might help on the long stage later,” he explained, “Let’s see what we can do. The time here was okay, but there are rocks about so it’s a bit stressful.”
Volkswagen’s Andreas Mikkelsen was sixth fastest, and lost time when he went straight on at a junction and had to reverse.
Evgeny Novikov was seventh fastest, with Kris Meeke - who like Hirvonen is also using the hard-compound tyre - eighth.