Team-mates Sébastien Ogier and Andreas Mikkelsen tied at the top of the timesheets in Saturday’s second speed test at the Che Guevara Energy Drink Tour de Corse, but there was disappointment for Kris Meeke who crashed out.
Stage info: SS6
Novella - Pietralba 1, 30.80km
A stage that has never been used in the modern version of the rally but has been popular for testing in the past. The crews start close to the Pietra Monetta Auberge and they have to cope with several difficult corners to reach the 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 Pietralba.
Both Volkswagen Polo R drivers reported an encounter with cows in the 30.80km test but Mikkelsen was not in the mood for slowing as he continued to close on Thierry Neuville in their battle for second.
“We saw some cows going into a blind corner on the entry. I was expecting the worst but kept my foot at full throttle and all was OK. I hit something a couple of times on the inside of a corner and was afraid I had a puncture but it was OK,” explained the Norwegian.
Ogier’s lead rose to 53.6sec as Neuville trailed the Polo pair by a second in the test. “When you’re not pushing at the limit sometimes you lose a bit of time, but that’s something I can afford. The road was very dirty with a lot of gravel so I was pretty careful,” Ogier said.
Meeke, who broke Ogier’s run of stage victories in the previous test, retired his Citroën DS 3 after hitting a tree 400 metres after the start (pictured below).
Neuville was happy and frustrated in equal measure, his Hyundai i20 handling well in narrow sections but less so on wider roads. The Belgian’s lead over Mikkelsen was down to 5.4sec.
Jari-Matti Latvala retained fourth overall ahead of Craig Breen, but was far from happy with his Polo R. “I’m not enjoying it. I can’t get the best confidence and I’m really struggling with the brakes. I can’t get a good feeling with the car and it’s annoying me,” said the Finn.
Hayden Paddon took one look at his seventh fastest time and declared: “It’s back to the drawing board. It’s not working this morning.” The Kiwi retained sixth however, with Eric Camilli, Dani Sordo, WRC 2 leader Elfyn Evans and Mads Østberg completing the leaderboard.