Friday | 03 Oct 2014

Latvala leads as Ogier hits double trouble

Jari-Matti Latvala led Rallye de France-Alsace after Friday morning’s opening loop but team-mate Sébastien Ogier’s hopes of clinching a second consecutive world title here were dented after a double dose of problems.

Stage info: SS2 / 3

SS2: Vosges - Pays d’Ormont 1, 34.34km
This stage is identical to last year and mixes wide and narrow sections on smooth and abrasive roads. It undulates through tree-lined asphalt and includes tricky corners with loose gravel on the surface.

SS3: Pays de Salm 1, 9.59km
A shorter version of the stage used in 2011, it starts in a forest on a mid-to-wide road. Fast wide asphalt ensures a flowing characteristic, with a very quick downhill section to the finish.

Latvala lost his early lead to Volkswagen Polo R team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen in SS2, the longest of the weekend. But the Finn regained top spot in the short SS3 to return to the Strasbourg service park with a 0.7sec advantage over the Norwegian.

“I didn’t have a good feeling in SS2, the car was too soft and the brakes too hard,” said Latvala. “I couldn’t get a good feeling but it was much better in the next one.”

Ogier spun 3.6km into SS2, but worse was to follow as a problem with his Polo R cost four minutes and a further 15sec in SS3.

“I did a mistake at a slippery hairpin, but immediately after that I had a big cut to the engine,” he said. “It looks like it’s linked to the way the engine cuts for [gear] shifting, but I don’t know. The team has to check the data and hopefully solve the problem. When I was aggressive on the throttle it was OK, but every time I backed off I lose time again.”

To complete an awful morning for the Frenchman he received a four-minute penalty after checking in early at the SS3 arrival control and was 8min 26.1sec off the lead.

Mikkelsen struggled for rhythm in SS3 but was 6.5sec ahead of Kris Meeke in third. The Citroen DS3 pilot was rattled as rocks placed on the inside of corners by organisers to prevent cutting appeared to have been moved since the recce.

Thierry Neuville - losing power

Elfyn Evans was fourth in a Ford Fiesta RS, 8.1sec behind Meeke, but the Welshman was quick to leave the finish of SS3 with a warning light flashing in the cockpit. Dani Sordo and Mads Østberg completed the top six, just 0.9sec splitting the duo.

Robert Kubica, Mikko Hirvonen, who complained that the rear tyres of his Fiesta RS overheated, Bryan Bouffier and Martin Prokop completed the leaderboard.

Thierry Neuville was a lowly 21st after dropping a minute in SS2 after briefly sliding into a ditch, but a lack of power was more of a concern for the Belgian. He could find nothing wrong but lost a further 90sec in SS3.

In WRC 2, Quentin Gilbert lead Bernardo Sousa by 3.4sec, with Pontus Tidemand a further 1.4sec back in third.

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