Saturday | 04 Oct 2014

Latvala stretches lead in Saturday's opener

Jari-Matti Latvala extended his advantage at the head of the Rally de France - Alsace leaderboard through Saturday’s opening speed test, but admitted he would have to be at his best to defend his lead from team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen.

Stage info: SS8

Vallée de Munster 1, 18.90km
Medium width all the way, it starts under tree cover and climbs a bumpy road to the top of a col, after which it’s a high-speed descent, mixed with hairpins and chicanes, to the finish. The first 5.3km are new but the rest is the same as last year. The roads were used as a stage in this year’s Tour de France.

Latvala was fastest through Vallée de Munster by 2.7sec in his Volkswagen Polo R from the Norwegian to stretch his lead to 10.9sec.

“I’m in a big battle and Andreas is driving very well, he’s not giving anything for free,” said Latvala. “It was very fast in the downhill section. The grip was quite good but it was slippery at the chicanes in the middle of the stage.”

Mikkelsen felt he was too cautious at the start. “I was very careful so I lost time, but I tried to make it up in the downhill section,” he smiled.

Sébastien Ogier opened the road and was third in another Polo R, the Frenchman surprised at how damp the roads were.

Robert Kubica was fourth in a Ford Fiesta RS to climb ahead of Mikko Hirvonen into sixth. All the top drivers opted for Michelin’s hard compound tyres except Kubica, who bucked the trend by fitting soft compound rubber on the rear left.

Kris Meeke and Elfyn Evans completed the top six, the Welshman relegating Martin Prokop a place as he climbed to ninth.

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