Saturday | 04 Oct 2014

Latvala leads as Kubica charges

Jari-Matti Latvala completed a hat-trick of stage victories on Saturday morning to widen his lead at Rallye de France-Alsace.

Stage info: SS9/SS10

SS9: Soultzeren - Le Grand Hohnack 1, 19.93km
Unchanged from 2012 and 2013, it starts on a double-width road and climbs, with fast kinks, in and out of the trees. It reaches a peak at 7.43km, where it passes First World War trenches, before heading downhill to the finish.

SS10: Pays Welche - Riquewihr 1, 21.49km
New this year, the stage is narrow and bumpy with a broken surface and many potholes. It stays under the trees for long sections and passes through a couple of villages before ending with a tricky high-speed descent through a sequence of hairpins.

He was fastest through both SS9 and SS10 to add to quickest time in the opener, and reached remote service at Colmar with his lead over Volkswagen Polo R team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen up to a relatively comfortable 14.8sec.

“On sections I’m familiar with I knew where I could push, but the last stage was new so I had to be careful. It was a demanding stage but I feel I’ve found a good rhythm,” he said.

Mikkelsen was second in SS10 and third in the previous test, but hinted he was prepared to settle for second rather than risk all in pursuit of Latvala.

“I tried to push when I felt comfortable but I was careful in the tricky sections. My main goal is to take third in the championship but it’s something else to fight with Jari-Matti. I’m not taking risks which I need to if I want to fight him,” he said.

Kris Meeke remains third in a Citroen DS3, 31.7sec behind Mikkelsen and 30.9sec clear of Dani Sordo’s Hyundai i20. “I tried to consolidate my position because it’s impossible to catch the VWs. If I stick my neck out and try then I will make a stupid mistake,” he said.

Robert Kubica (pictured above) enjoyed an excellent morning in his Ford Fiesta RS. After relegating Mikko Hirvonen in the opener, he demoted Mads Østberg from fifth in SS9, despite clipping a wall and driving 15km with the right rear tyre partly off the rim.

Dani Sordo - holding off Kubica

He is only 7.3sec behind Sordo and 2.9sec clear of Østberg. Behind seventh-placed Hirvonen is M-Sport team-mate Elfyn Evans, the Welshman demoting Bryan Bouffier in SS10 after passing Martin Prokop two stages earlier.

Thierry Neuville also moved ahead of Prokop into 10th, but the Belgian is far from happy with the handling of his Hyundai i20 in bumpy sections.

Bernardo Sousa took the WRC 2 lead in a Fiesta RRC after Quentin Gilbert lost time with a power steering issue in his Fiesta R5. The gap is just 1.0sec.

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