The young Norwegian reckoned he lost 25 seconds when he went wide on a right-hander on stage two and swiped the rear left corner of his car on a retaining barrier. He also spun on stage three and had to reverse to get pointed in the right direction. However, there were no such problems in the afternoon, although he was unable to prevent the flying Sandell from eroding his advantage.
“I was a bit too slow at the start but it has been a good afternoon for me and now I am really close to Eyvind,” said Sandell, who lost time on stage four when his brakes faltered five kilometres from the end of run. “There is definitely more left to come from us tomorrow.”
Michal Kosciuszko completes a Skoda podium lockout after surviving a spin at a hairpin on stage three. The Polish driver is 5.2s clear of Finn Jari Ketomaa, who can clinch the inaugural S-WRC title by winning in France and again on Rally GB in mid-November.
Apart from two short tests before the start, Friday’s stages provided the Finn with his first opportunity to drive a rally car on Tarmac. “It’s difficult because you know exactly where to put the car on gravel, where to brake, things like that, but not so on Tarmac,” said Ketomaa. “I know I have got a very good car but I have not got the experience to really attack. I am on the safe side.”
It has been a frustrating day for the joint title leaders Xevi Pons and Martin Prokop. Spaniard Pons reported being too cautious in the morning and, as a result, completed day one in fifth overall in his Ford Fiesta.
But at least he fared better than Prokop, whose similar Fiesta suffered power steering failure on the opening stage. Without the required spare parts to fix the fault in the remote service in Mulhouse, Prokop had to complete the entire day with no assisted steering and lost more than five minutes as a result.
“I’m strong but not that strong so it’s been really hard,” said Prokop, who is a distant sixth in class overnight. “The car kept wanting to go straight on in the corners. I think I have lost the championship today. It has been very bad.” To add insult to injury Prokop and co-driver Jan Tomanek are both sporting fully grown beards for losing a bet with their mechanics that they would win a rally in their native Czech Republic last month, which they actually ended up not contesting.
Andorran Albert Llovera, who is seventh in his Abarth Grande Punto, is the only other S-WRC driver still running after Bernardo Sousa and French wildcard entrants Jean-Sebastien Vigion and Julien Maurin all hit trouble.
Rally results links on wrc.com: