SS4: Neuville fastest, Ogier out!
Moselland (22.79 kilometres)
Thierry Neuville was quickest again on Friday’s second test, the Fiesta RS driver narrowing the gap to rally leader Jari-Matti Latvala to 4.4sec.
However the Belgian was lucky to escape a scary moment mid stage when he came across the Polo R of Sebastien Ogier stopped in the middle of the road.
“It was soon after a high-speed crest and I was surprised to see him there,” the Belgian admitted. “I had to slow down to drive around it, and perhaps I slowed too much. Okay, we’re in a good battle now but I need to get some feeling in the car, I don’t feel comfortable all the time.”
After damaging his car’s front suspension on the previous stage, Championship leader Ogier made emergency repairs on the road section that followed - binding the broken track control arm together with ratchet straps.
He started Moselland, but stopped 17km in when, according to the following drivers, the repair failed. It was the Frenchman’s second retirement of the season, and scuppers his mathematical chance to secure the WRC drivers’ title this weekend.
Volkswagen’s hopes of a home rally win now ride with Latvala, who wasn’t surprised to be 1.2sec slower than Neuville. “I tried, but I’ve never been very successful on this stage,” said the Finn. “I have too much understeer and was a bit afraid in the cuts, so I’m not 100 per cent satisfied yet. I need to make a few little modification to the car.”
Citroen’s Dani Sordo was second quickest, to remain in touch with the leaders, but the Spaniard too wasn’t feeling comfortable with the handing of his car. “There’s something not right, too much understeer. It’s quite difficult but I do my best,” he said.
Mikko Hirvonen was fourth quickest in his DS3, with Mads Ostberg, struggling to settle into a good rhythm, rounding off the top five.
Michal Kosciuszko dropped more than a minute because of his back injury. “It’s really painful and very difficult to drive,” he explained. “I cannot pull the handbrake very hard so I had to reverse a few times on the hairpin corners. I hope my physio can help when I get back to service.”
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