Thierry Neuville won the opening speed test of Saturday’s second leg of the Che Guevara Energy Drink Tour de Corse to move within a whisker of climbing to second place.
Stage info: SS5
La Porta - Valle di Rostino 1, 48.71km
A legendary stage that has been trimmed by 5km at the beginning. A technical uphill section from the start ends at La Porta church, before twisty and bumpy roads run through Giocatojo and up to the Col Saint Antoine. The descent on new and older asphalt heads through several villages before climbing again to Campile. A twistier road tracks the mountainside before a series of abrasive downhill hairpins leads to the finish.
The Belgian shrugged aside a frustrating day yesterday to win the marathon special stage from La Porta to Valle di Rostino in his Hyundai i20. He was almost 15sec quicker than a downbeat Sébastien Ogier to move within 0.6sec of the Frenchman.
“Conditions are very tricky with a lot of gravel. In the very dirty places I pushed quite hard,” said Neuville, who closed the gap on leader Kris Meeke to 17.0sec.
Meeke was third fastest in his Citroën C3, 8.8sec adrift of Neuville, to stretch his advantage. “That wasn’t too bad. It was very dirty and we had to be careful. Obviously Neuville’s had a good time but I’m happy. I’ve increased my lead, that’s the main thing," he said.
Ogier was far from happy, his Ford Fiesta bottoming out in the stage. “There were some sections where I was not compatible with the car and couldn’t push. I can’t find more. The car is touching the road too much for me,” he explained.
Dani Sordo climbed to fourth after relegating Craig Breen but the Spaniard was also unhappy. “The worst stage in my life - unbelievable. I can’t push and was really slow. By kilometre three, I just wanted to get to the end,” he said.
Breen reported brake problems in his C3 while Ott Tänak finished with his Ford Fiesta’s engine sounding very rough. He stopped shortly after the finish and changed the spark plugs, ECU and coil packs before continuing.
Stéphane Lefebvre hit a wall 5km after the start and damaged the rear of his Citroën C3. He was stationary for more than 30 minutes before limping to the finish.
Juho Hänninen, who restarted under Rally 2 rules after retiring yesterday, was second fastest in his Toyota Yaris, 4.7sec behind Neuville.