Bucca is mainly new, but includes parts of the 2011 stage. It is the roughest of the rally - not as rocky as in Greece but rough for Australia - with stones on the road and bedrock poking up through the surface for much of the first half. It becomes smoother towards the finish. The clay-based roads are fast, with big straights dotted with crests and jumps.
How the action unfolded:
Fresh from the 30-minute midday service, Sebastien Ogier was straight back on the attack through the repeated Bucca test, the Frenchman fastest by 0.2sec to pull almost one minute clear of the rest of the field.
Tantalisingly close to the end of the rally, and the 2013 WRC drivers’ title, Ogier explained why he had no intention of slowing down just yet.
“It’s the best way to stay concentrated, otherwise I start to think too much,” he said. “Nobody’s pushing too much now, maybe they’re trying to save tyres for the Power Stage. Anyway, I’m trying to stay cool and keep calm. If I can do this for two more stages perhaps then I can adopt a different attitude!”
Further down the order, Mads Ostberg had a scare early in the stage that threatened his fifth place. “We got a front right puncture after about 500 metres, I don’t know why, maybe the tyre was pushed off the rim,” he said.
The Norwegian completed the test 16.9sec slower than Ogier, and now lies just 8.9sec ahead of his compatriot Andreas Mikkelsen in sixth.
Mikkelsen however is well placed to take manufacturers’ championship points from Citroen’s Kris Meeke behind, and with instructions from Volkswagen to get the car home, was quick to dispel any talk of a fight for fifth.
“I’m not going to make changes to the objective here,” he said. “I’m concentrated on getting to the finish. As for the battle with Mads, we’ll have to do that another day.”