This is a repeat of the opening stage, the difference being that competitors start at 30 second intervals and cover two loops. Based at the ski resort of Himos, the opening test takes competitors from the bottom of the slope to the top of the hill via access roads and back down. The opening kilometre is asphalt, before switching to a double width gravel road to the top. The journey down is via a narrower, more gravelly track.
How the action unfolded:
Mikko Hirvonen was furious after losing 16sec in heavy rain to plunge from equal first to fifth.
Groups of four cars started the stage at 30 second intervals, with a 4min 30sec gap between the groups.
Conditions deteriorated in increasingly heavy rain and Hirvonen was last of the top drivers to start, as the opening car in the fourth group. The ruts created during this morning’s first pass filled with water during the gap between the groups, and the Citroen DS3 pilot was only 12th fastest.
“If we were in the group before it would have been more equal. There is so much water in the ruts that we lost nearly 20 seconds. Really good decision from the organisers. Really, really good decision,” complained an upset Hirvonen.
After three stages where two drivers were tied at the top of the leaderboard, there is finally a clear leader. Thierry Neuville was only fifth in his Ford Fiesta RS but it was sufficient to earn a 2.0sec advantage.
“I couldn’t see in the rain and there was a lot of fog on the window. I just tried to stay on the road,” said the Belgian.
The stage win went to fellow Fiesta RS driver Mads Ostberg. The Norwegian was quickest by 1.3sec to climb to second overall. “We could see the rain coming and it was heavy, especially on the other side of the mountain. On the downhill section the wipers could not cope,” he said.
Jarkko Nikara benefited from starting last of the opening group to go second fastest in his Mini John Cooper Works, with Kris Meeke third in his Citroen DS3.
Sebastien Ogier was sixth and complained of a misted windscreen in his Volkswagen Polo R. The Frenchman is now third overall, 2.5sec behind Neuville.
P-G Andersson’s oversteering problems continued with a half-spin in his Fiesta RS while Riku Tahko dropped almost 13 minutes when his Mini John Cooper Works stopped with a throttle problem. The Finn reconnected a faulty wire before completing the stage.