Dani Sordo remains in the lead in France for MINI following Saturday morning's first loop, although only 0.2 seconds separate him and Citroen's Sebastien Ogier.
It has been remarkably close all morning, but while Sordo lost the lead in SS10, he re-took top spot in SS12, his third stage win of the event lifting the MINI John Cooper Works WRC car back to the top of the pile ahead of the 15 minute mid-day RSZ in Colmar.
"The car is perfect," Sordo said after SS12. "I just miss a bit of power. My driving was OK with no mistakes."
Ogier himself had led following SS11, but when he was 'only' fourth in Grand Ballon 1, he slipped back behind Sordo: “It's a big fight but it's okay for us,” Ogier told the official WRC site. “The downhill section [in SS12] was a bit difficult, there was gravel on the road because of the cars [ahead]. Dani is driving very well now, so I have to keep driving like this. The MINI is going well. You can't do these times without a good car.”
Petter Solberg however has dropped out of contention. The Norwegian had been right in the thick of things and went top again with the quickest time in SS10. However in the next test he picked up a slow right-front puncture and lost more than 40 seconds, effectively ending any hopes he had of victory: "I still can't figure out where and how I punctured in the previous stage," Solberg said. "I am very disappointed but I will keep on fighting."
Away from that battle, Jari-Matti Latvala
has led the charge for Ford and he is up to fourth, having got ahead of the second works MINI of Kris Meeke in SS12. The two are split by just 0.5 seconds – but lie 40 seconds adrift of P3.
“I made small mistakes, nothing major, on every stage and I can't get a clean run,” said Latvala. “The pace of the top six is so similar that it's hard to make a difference. I tried braking later into corners to keep the pace but then I lost speed at the exit. I'm focused on the manufacturer points, so it's a balance between driving quickly and not taking risks.”
Mikko Hirvonen remains sixth with Dennis Kuipers, Armindo Araujo and Henning Solberg
in positions 7 through to 9: “I struggled for speed this morning because I can't find the limit of the grip, and that affected my confidence,” Mikko explained. “I raised the rear ride height and made the back of the car softer during the loop but it didn't make a difference, so I'll take a look at the set-up in service and make some more changes for the afternoon.”
Mads Ostberg rounds out the top ten, a slow puncture in the final test of the loop costing him over 2 minutes and three positions on the leaderboard: "We had a slow puncture on the front right tyre after the start of the stage," he confirmed. "I had to stop to change the wheel. I don't understand how it happened as we haven't touched anything."
Further back, Ken Block and Pierre Campana are eleventh and twelfth with SWRC class leader, Ott Tanak and Matthew Wilson
13th and 14th respectively. Tanak now leads the SWRC by almost 2.5 minutes from Eyvind Brynildsen with Martin Prokop still third.
In terms of retirements, Evgeny Novikov
was the only major name to go out this morning. He went off the road in his M-Sport Stobart
Ford Fiesta RS WRC in SS11, joining the likes of Sebastien Loeb
and Kimi Raikkonen on the sidelines after their exits on day one.
The action now continues this afternoon with a repeat-run through this morning's four tests, before concluding with a run through the new street test in Mulhouse.
SS13, the 9.87 kilometre-run through Hohlandsbourg 2, starts at 13.02 hours local time [12.02 hours British time].Rallye de France Alsace: Overall standings after Stage 12 (Top 10):
1. Dani Sordo
MINI WRT John Cooper Works 2hours 01mins 29.5secs
2. Sebastien Ogier
Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +00mins 00.2secs
3. Petter Solberg
DS3 WRC +00mins 40.9secs
4. Jari-Matti Latvala
Ford Abu Dhabi WRT Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 21.1secs
5. Kris Meeke
MINI WRT John Cooper Works +01mins 21.6secs
6. Mikko Hirvonen
Ford Abu Dhabi WRT Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 47.7secs
7. Dennis Kuipers
FERM Powertools Ford Fiesta RS WRC +04mins 21.4secs
8. Armindo Araujo
Motorsport Italia MINI John Cooper Works +04mins 36.5secs
9. Henning Solberg
Ford Fiesta RS WRC +04mins 58.9secs
10. Mads Ostberg
Ford Fiesta RS WRC +05mins 58.5secs
11. Ken Block
Monster WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +06mins 09.1secs
12. Pierre Campana
Equipe de France FFSA MINI John Cooper Works +06mins 09.2secs
13. Ott Tanak
Ford Fiesta S2000 +06mins 41.1secs
14. Matthew Wilson
Ford Fiesta RS WRC +06mins 45.0secs
15. Khalid Al-Qassimi
Team Abu Dhabi Fiesta RS WRC +07mins 57.4secs
MSWRC standings after Stage 12:
1. Ott Tanak
Ford Fiesta S2000 2hours 08mins 10.6secs
2. Eyvind Brynildsen
Skoda Fabia S2000 +02mins 27.6secs
3. Martin Prokop
Ford Fiesta S2000 +02mins 41.6secs
SS1. Frigyes Turan
Ford Fiesta S2000 Mechanical
SS3. Sebastien Loeb
Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC Engine
SS2/3. Kimi Raikkonen
ICE1 Racing Citroen
DS3 WRC Went off on road section
SS6. Peter van Merksteijn
Van Merksteijn Citroen
DS3 WRC Rolled
SS11. Evgeny Novikov
Ford Fiesta RS WRC Went offall times unofficial