Saturday | 03 Oct 2015

SS5: Latvala closes on leader Evans

Jari-Matti Latvala rocketed to fastest time through Saturday morning’s opening stage at Tour de Corse - Rallye de France to climb to second and slash overnight leader Elfyn Evans’ advantage to just 1.7sec.

Stage info: SS5

Francardo – Sermano 2, 36.43km
This stage, north of Corte, is in one of the island’s most beautiful regions and promises to sort the men from the boys! The roads are narrow and bumpy and the asphalt is old. Drivers cross the first col on a grassy road and after the village of Aiti at 10km, it becomes incredibly twisty, with hairpin after hairpin. Later in the stage chestnut trees line the roads, restricting the view from the cockpit.

Following the cancellation of the opening stage due to flood damage from Friday’s storms, drivers faced just a repeat of yesterday’s final test before service in Corte.

Clear skies and sun meant exposed sections of the mountain roads were dry with good grip, but in the shade there was a slimy layer of dirt. Most drivers opted for Michelin’s soft compound tyres but felt conditions were worse than yesterday.

“It was more difficult because there was a bigger contrast between the grippy and slippery sections,” explained Latvala. “I had a couple of small moments, it was so, so slippery under the trees. Evans was fast on this stage yesterday so I knew I had to up my pace.”

Evans was 21.2 sec slower in seventh in his Ford Fiesta RS and echoed Latvala’s thoughts. “It was really tough. It’s like there is a film on the road,” said the Welshman.

Andreas Mikkelsen was second fastest in his Volkswagen Polo R to leap from seventh to third, 27.8sec off the lead and 1.3sec ahead of Kevin Abbring. The Dutchman dropped from second in his Hyundai i20, admitting his choice of hard tyres was a mistake.

“I don’t think hard tyres were much slower but the middle 15km were worse than I expected and I couldn’t get enough heat into the rubber,” said Abrring, who drove on a slow puncture for the final 7km.

Fourth fastest enabled Citroën’s Kris Meeke to leap from eighth to fifth, 4.5sec ahead of team-mate Mads Østberg, who regretted changing his DS 3’s set-up in the expectation of better grip.

Robert Kubica retired from fifth with two punctures and just one spare wheel in his Fiesta RS, while Stéphane Sarrazin dropped a place to seventh after lacking power in his similar car.

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