SS1: Ogier quick off the mark in Wales
Volkswagen made a perfect start when Sebastien Ogier sped to fastest time by 1.3sec in his Polo R ahead of team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala.
Ogier, who won qualifying this morning but opted not to start first in the running order, admitted conditions were tough. “It was very slippery at the beginning. I didn’t take risks, I tried to get the feeling in the night,” the Frenchman said.
Latvala took the brave decision to run first through the dank and slimy forests and the Finn was satisfied with his performance. “I had a little bit of hesitation in places. The grip was changing but I didn’t have the confidence to go as fast as the grip would allow,” he explained.
Thierry Neuville was 0.3sec behind Latvala and admitted to a slight mistake in his Ford Fiesta RS. Although the heavy rain and strong winds of this morning have eased, the roads took a good soaking and Neuville was first to test the Welsh ditches.
“I understeered into the ditch at a slippery place, but only lost half a second maximum,” he said. “In the last part they have remade the road with big stones. It gets more and more destroyed after just two cars, so there was no chance to go faster.”
Andreas Mikkelsen made it three Polos in the top four and the young Norwegian had a huge smile on his face at the finish. “Fantastic! I like to run in the dark. It was very tricky but I had no problems. My pace was OK. For sure we can go faster, but it’s a long and difficult rally,” he said.
Mikko Hirvonen and Mads Ostberg completed the top six, but neither was happy. Hirvonen slid wide at a couple of corners and Ostberg experienced gear shift troubles, which he believed was a problem with his Fiesta’s gear cut system.
Ninth on his World Rally Car debut was Robert Kubica in a Citroen DS3. “It wasn’t easy. First time in a proper stage at night and new pace notes, so many new things. We are safely through and that’s the most important thing,” said the Pole, who is accompanied by Michele Ferrara for the first time at WRC level.
Michal Solowow dropped more than two minutes after his Fiesta RS slid into a ditch, and as he tried to regain the road his car was clipped at the rear by the following Yazeed Al Rajhi.
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