Apart from the final 200 metres, this stage follows the same route as 2012. It starts on a country road but quickly enters the vineyards for the first time in the rally. There are many hairpins and tight junctions among the grapes, with tree stumps on the inside to stop cutting. At 16.5 km the road opens, becoming faster and more flowing.
How the action unfolded
Thierry Neuville was the pace-setter once again on the repeated Mittelmosel test, extending his unbroken run of stage wins today and narrowing the gap on rally leader Jari-Matti Latvala to just two seconds.
“All okay, a good rhythm,” was all the Ford Fiesta RS driver had to say before he set off for the following Moselland stage.
Latvala was second quickest, fourth-tenths slower than Neuville, and arrived at the finish control with his Polo R sporting a bent right-hand rear wheel rim and a piece missing from its rear spoiler.
“It happened in the sharp compression near the start,” the Finn explained. “I braked for it, but the impact was heavier than I expected. We’ll probably have to change the wheel because I could feel the vibration. In service we made a few [set-up] changes and overall the car feels a lot better.”
Dani Sordo was third quickest, 0.1sec slower than Latvala, and feeling more positive after the service break in Trier. “We made the car set-up a bit harder, and I’m happier with it,” he said. “I lost about four seconds in the first split but we were much better after that.”
Sordo’s Citroen team-mate Mikko Hirvonen was fourth fastest and now more than 30 seconds off the lead in the overall standings. “It looks like everybody ahead has lifted their pace, I did the same but for sure they are getting away a bit,” he said.
Mads Ostberg is fifth, one minute behind Hirvonen, and still puzzled by his performance so far. “The car is definitely better, it felt quite okay in the stage, but I lost a lot in the end and I don’t know why. We carry on,” he said.
Weather conditions were drier and brighter than the morning loop, and with no rain forecast all of the WRC runners elected to use Michelin’s hard-compound tyre and carry one spare.
Michal Kosciuszko retired from the day at the midpoint service. The Pole jarred his back on today’s opening stage and on the advice of his team has gone to hospital in Trier for a precautionary check-up.