This stage comprises two former tests linked by a new section in the middle. It starts near the famous Santa Rosa watersplash in front of huge crowds. The first section is technical and narrow and is lined by banks on both sides of the road. After the new part, the route reverts to familiar territory over fast but rough roads, with big jumps.
How the action unfolded:
Today’s opening test was a battle of the two Sebs. Citroen’s version, Sebastien Loeb, was on target to claim his first fastest time but a mistake towards the finish allowed Volkswagen’s version, Sebastien Ogier, to secure his fifth stage win out of six.
Ogier’s Polo R was 1.4sec faster than Loeb’s DS3 and that enabled the championship leader to stretch his lead to 17.7sec.
Heavy overnight rain left the soft sandy surface wet and muddy and the conditions caught out Loeb, who was almost two seconds quicker than his rival after 30km.
“I made a mistake,” he admitted. “I went off at the end of a very fast section. It was muddy and under braking I went wide and had to come back. I lost three or four seconds. It was very slippery in a few places.”
That was a view with which Ogier concurred. “Some places are muddy and slippery and in the sand it really saps the power. But it was OK and it’s important to keep the time gap,” he explained.
Mikko Hirvonen was third in the main Citroen squad’s other DS3, 5.4sec from the pace. “The start was really good but I had a couple of moments on muddy corners and watersplashes and lost time,” he said.
Ostberg was fourth in his Ford Fiesta RS, running under Rally 2 rules after retiring yesterday. He was 6.7sec slower than Ogier and said: “It was quite rough, rougher than I expected. The car took quite a lot of beating but it was OK. I didn’t push too hard. I took it steady but I had a few surprises.”
Fourth-placed Jari-Matti Latvala made some changes to the set-up of his Polo R but the Finn wasn’t entirely happy en route to fifth fastest.
“The car is softer but I don’t have the best confidence. I made a couple of little mistakes, but I have to fight with Mikko so I need to do something,” he told WRC Live.
Dani Sordo was down in ninth, his Citroen DS3’s engine ingesting water at the big river crossing and spluttering through on three cylinders when the revs dropped.
Michal Kosciuszko stopped his Mini John Cooper Works with broken suspension, while in the WRC 2 category both second-placed Yuriy Protasov and third-placed Ricardo Trivino also stopped.