One of the classic stages in the championship, this test is famous for its moon-like landscape. The roads are initially wide and fast, but give way to narrow, rough tracks. The entire route is uphill, with big boulders making it tough for tyres and suspension. Huge crowds have a fantastic view of the action across the vast, open countryside.
How the action unfolded
While many drivers in the top ten were thinking about preserving their positions on Saturday's rough opening stage, the battle for third between Jari-Matti Latvala and Evgeny Novikov ignited.
Latvala had edged closer to third during Friday's competition and he began the classic test from Mina Clavero 8.2sec behind Fiesta RS driver Novikov.
Latvala was the stage winner, but he remained fourth having clawed back less than a second from Novikov.
“Evgeny started strongly and I was 1.5sec behind at the first split so I realised my speed was not going to be enough,” said Latvala. “So we increased the pace a lot - it was a big push in the end.”
Novikov was second-quickest, but furious about a technical problem that kept his car in ‘road’ mode and without the benefit of its turbo anti-lag system. “I’m not in stage mode - I couldn’t get it to work,” said the Russian. “I tried to do my best, that’s all, but there was no response from the throttle at all. I hope we can get it fixed.”
Mikko Hirvonen was third-fastest in a Citroen DS3, but was more concerned with keeping a reliable driving rhythm than trying to better his sixth place overall.
Rally leader Sebastien Loeb was fourth-quickest and extended his advantage to a seemingly unassailable 55.1sec. “Yeah, things are looking good,” the Citroen driver acknowledged, “I took it easy, it was really rough, narrow and bumpy in there. I don’t like it so much but okay, we are here.”
Second placed Sebastien Ogier was seventh-fastest, having given up on the fight for victory. “I just drive now, I don’t care about Loeb,” he said. “For the car it’s very rough, so I’m driving just like in the recce. It’s a nice landscape!”
Mina Clavero was the first of four stages today run without a service break, and crews carried all the tyres they would have for the 77 competitive kilometres that remain.
The Volkswagen Motorsport drivers, and Thierry Neuville, had six soft-compound tyres, while Ostberg, Novikov and the Citroen team drivers opted for five hard-compound Michelins.