This stage was used last year for the first time but it has been shortened by 10.42km. It starts just before the Jesuit church in Santa Catalina and for the first 7.50km, the road is open and fast. After a bridge crossing it becomes narrow, twisty and rocky for the next 10km. The final 10km are faster, but with plenty of bumps and small jumps.
How the action unfolded:
Mist, rain and slippery gravel greeted competitors in the mountains north of Carlos Paz, but none of that deterred Sebastien Ogier who was quickest by 5.0sec from Volkswagen team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala to extend his lead to 8.8sec.
The Frenchman’s only issue surrounded the split times coming into his Polo R. “I had splits at the beginning and then no more, so I’m not sure of the times of the others,” he said.
Latvala had a similar problem, receiving just one split early in the test. “I had no idea how I was driving without the splits. It was my very first time on this stage because I was not here last year,” explained the Finn, who took a chunk out of his rear left wheel rim after hitting a rock under braking.
Mikko Hirvonen was third, 6.1sec behind in his Citroen DS3, and breathed a sigh of relief at the stop line.
“I was a little bit lucky. I hit a rock with the front right tyre after about 17km but luckily there was no damage or a puncture,” he told WRC Live at the finish.
So what of the returning Sebastien Loeb? The Frenchman was far from comfortable after posting fourth fastest time in his Citroen DS3, 8.5sec down on Ogier. He is now 10.5sec behind his fellow countryman.
“I did what I could, but I struggled to find a rhythm,” he said. “The car is too much understeering for me and I’m finding it hard to get confident.”
Mads Ostberg was fifth in his Fiesta RS but struggled for visibility. “The wipers didn’t work. They were stuck in the vertical position and only started to work again when we took the car out of stage mode and into road mode,” explained the Norwegian.
Elsewhere, Dani Sordo, who celebrates his 30th birthday today, was uncomfortable in the narrow, slippery sections in his Citroen DS3. Thierry Neuville was unhappy with the set-up of his Fiesta RS and also had problems with his car’s wipers.
Martin Prokop, who was unhappy with the engine in his Fiesta RS in last night’s super special, reported a warning alarm in the cockpit, suggesting overheating issues.
In the WRC 2 category overnight leader Marcos Ligato stopped his Subaru 14km into the test, reportedly with a broken wheel. Stage winner was Fiesta RRC driver Abdulaziz Al Kuwari, who leads by 7.9sec from Nicolas Fuchs in a Mitsubishi.