Kris Meeke retired from the lead of the Che Guevara Energy Drink Tour de Corse on Saturday morning to hand the initiative to a rejuvenated Thierry Neuville.
Stage info: SS6
Novella 1, 17.27km
A stage that was used in the modern version of the rally for the first time last year. The crews start close to the Pietra Monetta Auberge and they have to cope with several difficult corners to reach Novella village perched high in the mountains. The stage then follows a much narrower and bumpier worn road surface before arriving at the finish in Balanine, 13.50km earlier than in 2016.
He coasted to the end of the Novella special stage with smoke pouring from his Citroën C3’s engine. The Briton and co-driver Paul Nagle pushed the car away from the finish but would go no further.
Their demise promoted Thierry Neuville into the lead. The rejuvenated Belgian followed his opening stage win with another fastest time in his Hyundai i20 Coupe to move ahead of Sébastien Ogier and return to Bastia for mid-leg service with an 8.2sec advantage.
“I had a good feeling but I was touching the sump guard a bit in the cuts and that was pushing me off-line,” said the Belgian, who appears to have put yesterday’s frustrations behind him.
Ogier was only seventh fastest in his Ford Fiesta and the Frenchman was not happy. “It’s obviously not fast enough and I would like to know why. I can’t explain it. I didn’t have the feeling it was so bad, but obviously it wasn’t good. We have to try to find something because this isn’t the pace I want,” he said.
Dani Sordo was up to third in his i20 Coupe, 37.1sec behind Ogier, but was still confused by his pace. “I pushed more and the time appears worse than I was expecting. It’s difficult to work out the driving style that’s required,” said Sordo, who was nevertheless second fastest.
Craig Breen was fourth despite driving with no intercom. “This is the worst place in the world to lose the intercom. I drove the whole stage blind. I never want to do that again,” he said.
The Irishman was 10.7sec ahead of a frustrated Jari-Matti Latvala, the Finn unhappy with the brakes in his Toyota Yaris. Hayden Paddon completed the top six, the Kiwi admitting he had taken a backward step with his i20 Coupe’s set-up.
WRC 2 leader Andreas Mikkelsen was seventh, with Stephane Sarrazin, Teemu Suninen and Yohan Rossel completing the leaderboard.
Elfyn Evans retired his Ford Fiesta after crashing at a left bend while Stéphane Lefebvre didn’t start the test after exceeding maximum lateness following his earlier problems.