SS5: Loeb shines

Sébastien Loeb provided a clear insight of what could have been when he won Saturday morning’s opening speed test at Corsica linea - Tour de Corse.

Stage info: SS5

Cagnano – Pino – Canari 1, 35.61km
Saturday’s opener crosses Corsica’s narrow northern tip from the east before winding down the west coast. After several hairpins at Cagnano, it climbs to the Serra pass before a descent punctuated with corners leads to Luri. Wider roads bring higher speeds as the stage scales the Santa-Lucia pass before diving downhill to Pino. The second half follows narrow, twisty roads and after the villages of Barrettali and Canari, a final hairpin leads to the finish.

The Frenchman restarted under Rally 2 rules after crashing out of second place yesterday morning and was fastest through the new 35.61km special stage from Cagnano to Canari by 1.4sec from Esapekka Lappi.

If that was a surprise to onlookers, it wasn’t to the man himself. “No problems at all, I knew I could be fast,” said the Citroën C3 pilot.

Lappi distanced Elfyn Evans and Dani Sordo in the overall standings after the trio began the test split by less than a second in their fight for fifth.

“In the middle of the stage I thought the tyres were too hot but I think it was the surface. I was scared we had overheated them, but they seemed to get better when the surface changed,” he said.

Leader Sébastien Ogier was fourth fastest in his Ford Fiesta. Like many, he was wary of roads new to all. “I think everyone feared this stage a bit, it’s a tricky one. It wasn’t full attack like yesterday but I’m happy with my pace,” he said.

Ogier extended his lead over Thierry Neuville by a few tenths, the Belgian voicing the thoughts of many when he said his pace notes were far from perfect. “They were too optimistic. I had to calm down a bit because if I hadn’t I would have made mistakes,” he said.

Kris Meeke was third and closed to within 0.5sec of the Hyundai i20 driver in their duel for second. He struggled with his notes but widened his advantage over Ott Tänak, who twice stalled his Toyota Yaris when he pulled the handbrake at hairpins.

Evans was another to stall, the Welshman’s Fiesta stopping briefly at the final hairpin.

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