Sunday | 04 Oct 2015

SS7: Latvala stretches Corsica advantage

Jari-Matti Latvala extended his lead of Tour de Corse – Rallye de France through a surprisingly damp opening stage of Sunday’s third and final leg.

Stage info: SS7

Sotta – Chialza, 36.58km
Crews face two distinct types of road in Sunday’s opener. Over the first 13km, they tackle fast, wide resurfaced roads as they climb the Col de Bacinu. The rest is slower and downhill almost all the way, passing the small villages of Bisène and Chialza before the finish. Drivers must beware rocks hidden on the roadside – an error and a puncture will follow.

The Volkswagen Polo R driver was second in the 36.71km test from Sotta to Chialza behind team-mate Sébastien Ogier. But he was 15.6sec quicker than second-placed Elfyn Evans to widen his lead to 17.6sec with two stages remaining.

Conditions on the east of the island near Porto-Vecchio were surprisingly damp and Latvala, like many, was uncertain if his soft compound Michelin rubber was the correct option.

“At the beginning it was dry but under the trees it was damp. I don’t know if the tyres were too hot but it was very slippery in places, with a lot of gravel on the road. I didn’t really know if my time was going to be good or not but it seems OK in the end,” explained Latvala.

Evans was sixth in his Ford Fiesta RS and also found the roads tricky. “My notes were a bit too safe in places but they were difficult conditions,” said the Welshman.

He conceded more than eight seconds to Andreas Mikkelsen, whose third fastest time completed a 1-2-3 for Volkswagen and enabled him to close to within 20.7sec of Evans.

“We made the wrong tyre choice earlier so I changed them before the start,” said Mikkelsen. “So we started on cold rubber with hard compounds on the front and softs on the rear. Sometimes we had oversteer and sometimes it was understeer.”

Dani Sordo was fourth in a Hyundai i20 and that promoted the Spaniard two places up the order to ninth, relegating Stephane Sarrazin and Ott Tänak. Robert Kubica completed the top five in the stage, opening the road after returning under Rally 2 rules following yesterday’s retirement with a double puncture.

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