SS7: Ogier heads Volkswagen clean sweep
Slippery and understeer – two words used by every one of the top drivers as the second pass through Hafren Forest provided far more challenging conditions than the initial pass this morning.
Although the mud had been cleaned from the surface, the stones beneath were wet and slimy and offered little grip. However, Volkswagen trio Sebastien Ogier, Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen completed a clean sweep of the top places in their Polo Rs.
Latvala held the upper hand for most of the test until Ogier raised his pace near the end to finish 1.7sec ahead. Mikkelsen was 13.0sec behind in third.
“We had to push at the end because Jari-Matti was a bit ahead of us in the splits. It was more slippery than this morning and it was hard to stay on the line,” said Ogier, who increased his lead to 15.2sec over Latvala.
Despite the more slippery conditions, Latvala was bubbling after a difficult morning. “I’m feeling a lot better now. Hafren is always very difficult second time through. There is no grip in the turns and lots of understeer. It’s the same every year and you have to work very hard with the steering,” he said.
Mikkelsen, too, was happier. The Norwegian found a better rhythm but echoed the thoughts of his team-mates about the conditions and resorted to using the handbrake to keep his Polo R on the right line.
Thierry Neuville was fourth in his Ford Fiesta RS, 13.8sec behind Mikkelsen. He retained third overall but the Belgian now lies 49.2sec behind the fast disappearing duo ahead.
“There was a lot of understeer, but we had a good drive and I can’t do much better,” said Neuville, whose performance can’t have been helped as he completed the stage with his distinctive orange spectacles steamed up!
Fifth and sixth were Qatar M-Sport team-mates Evgeny Novikov and Mads Ostberg but Ostberg rushed away from the finish to work on his Fiesta RS. “It took us a bit by surprise. We made some adjustments to the car to deal with the ruts but it was horrible. It was absolutely impossible to drive,” he said.
Perhaps seventh fastest Dani Sordo summed up the conditions best. “It’s worse than before. The mud is cleaning and the wet stones beneath are very, slippery,” he said.
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