Stage description: The stage is shortened by 5km at the start where Petter Solberg crashed into the vines in 2012. It begins in Blienschwiller before turning onto narrow vineyard roads. After a downhill section, it joins a Roman road before a hairpin around a fountain in Nothalten. It climbs to Ungersberg on forest roads before finishing near Albe. There are also many bollards throughout to stop drivers cutting corners.
How the action unfolded:
Sebastien Loeb was fastest again through Friday’s second stage, as the heavens opened – for some of the competitors at least.
Rain was the major talking point at the stage end, with the first drivers through reporting the odd spot, but cars fifth and below in the start order experiencing far more.
The rain was a surprise for most, and the Citroen and Volkswagen works team cars were shod with Michelin hard compound tyres best suited to dry roads. Only Ford Fiesta RS drivers Ostberg and Neuville had hedged their bets with a mixed two hard / two soft set-up.
But despite the less than ideal rubber, and plenty of rain for his pass, Loeb reached the finished control 1.4sec quicker than his closest rival Thierry Neuville.
“At the moment it’s going well,” said Loeb, who moved up to second overall. "We were not so confident when we started but finally we have two fastest times. Okay, there’s a long way to go and now we have rain so it starts to get a bit slippery. We have hard compound tyres so it will be difficult.”
In contrast, Fiesta pilot Neuville was second to tackle the stage, and on his mixed tyre option was disappointed to have had a dry run. “There was no water, I hope there is some in the next one,” he said. “We pushed hard in there but it wasn’t too comfortable. I think we can find a better setting for the car.”
Rally leader Dani Sordo was third quickest, and one of the last to miss the showers. “It was okay, just a little bit tricky under the trees where the surface was a little damp and it was hard to see exactly where the wet sections were.”
Jari-Matti Latvala was the fastest Volkswagen driver, fourth quickest and two seconds slower than Loeb. “I think my time was okay,” he said. “It was a clean run, and not too far off Neuville, but this stage has always been difficult for me. There are lots of narrow places and changes of rhythm. The road is often dirty so that’s why I take it a bit more carefully.”
Sebastien Ogier rounded off the top five times, the Frenchman taking his time to settle in to the conditions. “It’s a really long rally and this one was not easy,” he explained. “Especially at the end, where there was a little dampness in the wooded section.”
Mikko Hirvonen was the only WRC driver to report any drama in the stage, the Finn completing with his road section intercom headset loose in his footwell. "It fell off and was rolling around under the throttle and brake pedals,” he explained. “It disturbed me a bit but okay, not too bad.”
After the stage, crews set off on the 28 kilometre liaison section to the Vosges – Pays d’Ormont test, the third and longest stage of the morning loop.