Championship leader Sébastien Ogier closed on his maiden Che Guevara Energy Drink Tour de Corse victory after easing through Sunday morning’s longest speed test of the three-day event.
Stage info: SS9
This is the longest stage of the rally and features two sections of road that are new to the crews. A twisty, uphill start eventually reaches the village of Vezzani before some kilometres on a quick section of mountainside asphalt passes close to Rospigliani. On the descent towards the finish, the crews tackle a very narrow and winding section around Lugo di Nazza that competitors had to brave in the 1980s.
Restarting with a 46.5sec lead, Ogier took no risks in the marathon 53.78km special stage south of Bastia on roads still wet after heavy overnight rain. The Frenchman was sixth quickest in his Volkswagen Polo R to head for the final live TV Power Stage 43.8sec clear.
“It’s tricky with damp in the stage. Like yesterday, when it starts to be tricky we calm down. When you’re in this position, you want to get to the finish as soon as you can,” he said.
Kris Meeke, starting first in the order in Citroën’s DS 3 after yesterday’s retirement, blitzed the stage to win by a massive 35.3sec from Hayden Paddon.
“It was damp in a lot of places. I really concentrated in keeping heat in the tyres so that when we arrived at the damp sections we had something there to give us grip,” said Meeke.
Fourth fastest and a clear run for Thierry Neuville was sufficient to retain a comfortable 27.3sec advantage over Andreas Mikkelsen, both keen not to take risks.
After rally-long brake problems, Jari-Matti Latvala fitted different pads to his Volkswagen Polo R, and changed the anti-roll bars and suspension springs in an effort to find a better feeling. “I didn’t have any problems with the brakes. The changes were something of an experiment and although we had understeer, we’re not too far away,” said the Finn.
Latvala remained clear of Craig Breen, who was annoyed with himself. “It was horrific. I used pace notes from last year and it was a stupid mistake. There were 20km in the middle that were really fast but the notes were too slow. When you lose the rhythm it’s difficult to get it back,” he explained.
Lorenzo Bertelli’s disappointing weekend continued when the Italian dropped six minutes after changing a puncture on his Ford Fiesta RS and then losing his place in the pace notes.