Stage data: SS7, Crychan 1 (19.50 kilometres)
By Ford World Rally Team co-driver Chris Patterson: “It’s slightly different to previous years. Fifty per cent hasn’t been used since 2008. About halfway we turn on to what is the traditional stage. It’s a fantastic stage, super fast and the key to this stage is carrying the speed because the corners are so fast but very blind. The way the trees hang over the corners means you can’t see the corners at all so it’s really needs huge commitment. It’s a beautiful stage to drive and when you get to the finish if you’ve done a good time it’s a good feeling.”
How the action unfolded:
Mads Ostberg has closed to within 8.8s of the final podium spot on Wales Rally GB after winning Saturday’s first stage held in slippery and foggy conditions.
Jari-Matti Latvala continues to lead the FIA World Rally Championship qualifier with Ford team-mate Petter Solberg second and Citroen’s Sebastien Loeb third, albeit now under pressure from the flying Ostberg.
“I’m very pleased with that,” said the Adapta Fiesta privateer at the stage finish. “It was a very tricky stage and was getting more and more slippery. I am glad we are in our start position because it can be more slippery for the cars behind.”
Eight-time world champion Loeb was 2.5s slower than Ostberg through the high-speed test and is now 23.4s adrift of leader Latvala in the overall classification. He said: “Again it was very slippery, very difficult and I tried to push but no chance. For sure for us there’s absolutely no grip, I do my best but it’s really tricky. Nothing has changed with the car but we know when it’s very slippery we struggle a bit and the conditions make it really difficult.”
Event leader Latvala reported a “couple of moments” in the fog after he completed the stage 0.4s slower than Ostberg. However, his lead over Solberg has increased to 14.5s after the Norwegian slid off the road on a slippery corner early in the stage.”
Ott Tanak was third fastest with M-Sport team-mate Evgeny Novikov fourth quickest.
Thierry Neuville, who was eighth fastest, said he struggled to see where he was going after a build up of mud inside his Citroen resulted in his glasses being coated in mud. Meanwhile, Mikko Hirvonen, in a factory DS3 WRC, was frustrated at the stage finish: “It’s just so slippery and I really don’t understand why we can’t do good times,” he said.
Chris Atkinson said he’d been “steady” in his MINI John Cooper Works WRC, while Martin Prokop has a new gearbox fitted in his Czech Ford National Team Fiesta after he was hampered on Friday by the loss of sixth gear. Matthew Wilson said he’d been “wild” in a couple of places during the stage.
Multiple South African champion Jan Habig, competing in a World Rally Car for the first time, has slid off the road in his M-Sport Fiesta with reports that he is stuck. Nasser Al-Attiyah ran wide at the final turn, a 90-degree right-hander in his Qatar World Rally Team Citroen but didn’t report any significant delay. Paulo Nobre, running first on the road, spun twice in his MINI.