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 many bollards throughout to stop drivers cutting corners.
How the action unfolded:
Thierry Neuville claimed his second consecutive stage win of the afternoon to replace Sebastien Loeb at the top of the Rallye de France-Alsace leaderboard. The Belgian was 4.6sec faster than his French rival and now leads him by 2.6sec.
The roads were dry everywhere, aside from a few short sections under the trees, and Neuville capitalised on the hard tyres fitted to his Ford Fiesta RS to complete the test 1.9sec faster than Jari-Matti Latvala’s Volkswagen Polo R.
“We have good weather information from our gravel crew which I’m impressed with. I made a good tyre choice and I’m pushing,” he explained.
Latvala remains fourth overall, but the Finn was quite happy at just 4.1sec from the lead. “I expected to be between third and fifth, but I didn’t expect to be so close to the top. It’s a bit more demanding with the tyre choice this afternoon. It’s very dirty at junctions and I’m not so good at those stages, I’m better on flowing roads,” he said.
Third fastest and third overall was Dani Sordo, the Spaniard 2.0sec behind Neuville in the test and 3.7sec behind overall. Sordo was wrestling with whether to use hard or soft rubber and said: “It was slippery at the end but we didn’t lose too much time.”
Sebastien Ogier was fourth in his Polo R, and admitted he was struggling to find top form. “You can’t always be at your best all of the time. I’m trying harder this afternoon. The feeling isn’t so bad and I’m doing a bit better,” said the Frenchman.
Loeb was unperturbed by losing the lead. With soft rubber fitted to his Citroen DS3, the local hero explained: “The tyre choice was more for the last stage because we think it might rain. We have lost a bit of time and the lead but the rally is long.”
Evgeny Novikov rounded off the top six times in his Fiesta RS, pulling further clear of Mikko Hirvonen on the leaderboard. “I prefer the dry roads. When it’s slippery I’m not on the case at all, but I can always try to improve,” said Hirvonen.