This is a repeat of the longest and most difficult stage of the rally. It is a union of two classic tests, first run in this format last year. The opening 30km crosses the Sierras Chicas mountains on fast and flowing roads, punctuated by downhill hairpins, through open countryside. The second part goes back over the mountain on tighter, twistier roads with bedrock and stones on the road. It offers a tough test for tyres.
How the action unfolded:
With drizzle and visibility down to 50 metres at the finish, there were few drivers with happy faces as they emerged from the gloom of today’s final test.
Leader Sebastien Ogier delivered his fourth stage win out of five, but even he seemed concerned. As he drew his Volkswagen Polo R to a halt, the Frenchman leapt from the cockpit to look at the rear of the car where he saw a badly worn left tyre, which appeared to be low on pressure.
“I didn’t hit anything, maybe in a watersplash or something. This stage was a bit dry for soft tyres, but over the loop it wasn’t a bad choice. I’m happy but tired,” said Ogier, who was 2.1sec quicker than Mikko Hirvonen.
Despite taking second fastest, Hirvonen was frustrated. “The windscreen misted so I think we will lose a lot of time. The stage was a lot worse than we thought. Hard tyres all round were probably not the best choice,” said the Citroen DS3 pilot.
Sebastien Loeb was third in the main Citroen squad’s other DS3, and the world champion was convinced hard tyres were a bad choice. “We had information that it would be 100 per cent clear with no rain, but that was wrong,” the Frenchman told WRC Live.
Fourth was Jari-Matti Latvala, but there was no disguising the anger in his voice after he dropped 10 seconds over the final 20km with a repetition of the handbrake problem that hindered his Polo R this morning.
“It’s really annoying,” he said. “I’m not happy at the moment. I understand it can happen, but it’s difficult in hairpins when you can’t use the handbrake. I’m struggling and lost a lot of time.”
Evgeny Novikov was an unflustered fifth in his Ford Fiesta RS with Thierry Neuville rounding off the top six in a similar car, despite having no split times for part of the test.
Martin Prokop rolled his Fiesta RS in a slow corner and needed spectator help to get the car back on its wheels. Gabriel Pozzo dropped almost five minutes with broken power steering in his Fiesta RS and Michal Kosciuszko stopped after ripping a wheel from his Mini John Cooper Works.