Friday | 03 Oct 2014

Latvala fastest in France opener

Jari-Matti Latvala set the early pace at Rallye de France - Alsace with fastest time through Friday morning’s opening stage.

Stage info: SS1

Col de la Charbonnière 1, 11.11km:
Much of this stage is new, but a small section was used in 2012. Wide and abrasive in places, it climbs for 7.5km before descending, with high speeds throughout.

He averaged almost 120kph in his Volkswagen Polo R as he blasted through the sunny and clear test 0.3sec quicker than team-mate Sébastien Ogier, pronouncing himself happy with Michelin’s new asphalt tyres which are being used here for the first time.

“It was quite a good start. I had a little feeling of understeer so I was amazed the time was so good. The new tyres worked well, but in the fast places they were moving a little bit. But for me Michelin has done really, really good work,” said Latvala.

Ogier admitted his drive wasn’t perfect as he, too, reported understeering issues. “But this is just the start, the next stage is very important,” said Ogier, in reference to the following 34.34km Vosges - Pays d’Ormont, which is the longest of the rally.

Andreas Mikkelsen ensured a Volkswagen 1-2-3, just 0.5sec behind Latvala and the Norwegian was content. “Beautiful roads and beautiful conditions,” he said.

Kris Meeke was fastest of the rest, the Northern Irishman only 0.7sec slower than Latvala and comparing the stage to a hillclimb. “Very quick, very wide with a lot of grip, but easy to over drive,” said the Citroen DS 3 pilot.

With such a long stage to follow, virtually all the top drivers opted for hard compound tyres. Martin Prokop bucked the trend by selecting soft rubber for his Ford Fiesta RS and the Czech was confident they would last the 55.04km loop with no issues.

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