Stage description: The test begins in Bernardswiller on a double-width road but after 2km it turns into Klevener vineyard. The next 1.5km are narrow and tricky, before the test widens and becomes more flowing as it climbs to Heiligenstein on roads alternating between asphalt and concrete. It finishes before the railway line in Gertwiller.
How the action unfolded:
Ford Fiesta RS driver Thierry Neuville was the star of the stage. The Belgian rocketed through in the fastest time, his first stage win of the rally, to move ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala and into second overall.
The rain had cleared since the earlier pass, but cloudy skies suggested more would arrive at any moment. With showers a possibility, most drivers left the preceding service with a mixed selection of hard and soft compound tyres fitted to their cars, or carried as spares.
A super confident Neuville arrived at the finish control convinced that his choice of four hard compound Michelins had been the right one. “I was absolutely flat out everywhere, it was a good choice,” he said. “I felt comfortable, and I hope it’s enough for the fastest time.”
It was. His closest challenger was Dani Sordo, who had elected to fit a mixture of hard and soft compound rubber on his Citroen DS3 but was similarly happy with his choice. Sordo too moved up the leaderboard, and into third.
For Latvala, however, a mixture of two hard compounds and two softs wasn’t ideal for his Polo R, and he slipped to fourth. “It worked okay, but I’d say the stage was 95 per cent dry, more than I had expected, and on the soft tyres the car was moving about a bit,” he said.
Rally leader Sebastien Loeb was fourth quickest, and told a similar story. “I pushed, but we struggled on the tyres,” he said. “With hards on the front and softs at the rear it’s not possible to do much better than that”
Sebastien Ogier was fifth fastest, and still dissatisfied with his performance. “I tried but it wasn’t the perfect drive,” he said. “We made no changes to the car in service. I still need to wake up.”