The opening 5.2km are new but after that the stage returns to the format used in last year’s Power Stage. It is narrow, with many dips and crests which at night will be tricky in the shadows created by car lights. Trees overhang the road so hanging dust could be an issue and there is 3.5 km asphalt section midway through.
How the action unfolded:
Jari-Matti Latvala was in a class of his own on the 13 kilometre Gallura stage, and believes he can salvage a fifth place finish from Rally Italia Sardegna, despite losing two minutes earlier today with a puncture.
The Finn, who lies seventh, brought his Volkswagen Polo R through the test 10.9sec faster than his team-mate, rally leader Sebastien Ogier, and confirmed that he now had Dani Sordo’s fifth place in his sights.
“I drove this stage back in 2003 and I absolutely love it,” said Latvala. “If it was up to me I’d have many more stages like this in this rally. Okay, now I think we can try for fifth place. We’ll try to fight for that.”
Ogier, meanwhile, was one of many drivers to adopt a careful approach on the test’s numerous crests and dips, especially as the setting sun and dust clouds from the cars ahead made visibility less than ideal.
“I had no big concerns, but the road was much rougher than the others, so I was safe,” he said. “There was quite a lot of dust around, and I hope that won’t be a problem later when we’re back here in the dark.”
Citroen driver Mikko Hirvonen was third quickest, and extended the gap to the chasing Thierry Neuville slightly to 6.2sec. “That was okay. We have a good fight now with Mads [Ostberg] and Thierry. I’m looking forward to tomorrow."
Ostberg was less than half a second slower than Hirvonen and feeling positive after set-up tweaks to his Fiesta RS in service. “We fitted softer rear springs and the car feels much better,” said the Norwegian. “Okay, my driving wasn’t the best in the first half of that stage, but we started to push more in the second.”
Neuville was fifth fastest, and another driver to favour a cautious approach to Friday’s penultimate stage. “It was quite okay but I took care of the car because it’s quite rough. Dust was a problem and I’m sure it will be in the dark too,” he said.
Crews will tackle the night repeat of Gallura from 2128hrs.