Behind, Mikko Hirvonen
was unable to take the fight to Latvala and conceded more time this afternoon. He now lies 33.7 seconds back – and over a minute off the leader.
“I feel a lot better than yesterday. In the technical, narrow sections, my pace is very good. It's in the fast sections that I am losing time. I then really tried, and kept pushing all the way [on the second loop]. Maybe I was a little bit too aggressive in some places. But even when I felt that everything was perfect, I was still losing a little bit of time to my rivals. I'll have to aim for this position now whilst making sure I look after my tyres,” said the Citroen
Evgeny Novikov continues to hold fourth for the Qatar M-Sport WRT, although he is a long way back in his Fiesta RS WRC and revealed that he was slowed by suspension problems on the repeat loop.
“Fourth place is a good position so I have to be happy with that. But honestly, I am not happy with the times,” said the Russian. “I am pushing to the maximum but something just isn't working for us this weekend. There's not so much we can do about the guys in front of us because the gaps are too big, but if we keep this rhythm tomorrow who knows what might happen.”
Qatar WRT man Nasser Al-Attiyah rounds out the top five, one spot ahead of Andreas Mikkelsen, who is making his debut this weekend for Volkswagen and running in the third works Polo R WRC.
“We're still on a steep learning curve and we keep gaining valuable experience with every metre,” Mikkelsen explained. “The engine performance isn't the only thing which is worlds away from what I'm used to from the Super 2000 Skoda – the Polo R WRC's aerodynamics are impressive too. I'm still a long way off making the most of the WRC's potential, especially on fast bends, where I could keep up a lot more speed.
“On top of that, my pace notes contain too much information – we need to keep them simpler in future. Everything is just so much faster with the Polo R WRC. But all in all, we're moving in the right direction stage by stage. I'm very pleased with my performance today.”
Further back, Dennis Kuipers is seventh, having been drafted at short notice to replace Juho Hanninen, with Esapekka Lappi, Khalid Al-Qassimi and Martin Prokop in positions eight through to ten. Prokop had been running sixth but slipped back in the final two stages due to a broken rear differential. Michal Kosciuszko also lost out this afternoon with electrical problems in SS11 costing him over 10 minutes and dropping him from P9 to P14.
In the support categories, Lappi continues to head the WRC2 runners – and hold a place in the top-ten - while Bryan Bouffier is on course for WRC3 glory and Pontus Tidemand has taken the JWRC win.
In terms of retirements, in addition to Sordo, Thierry Neuville and Robert Kubica were the other two main casualties. Neuville went out in the same test as Sordo after hitting a rock and damaging the suspension on his Qatar WRT Fiesta RS WRC. Kubica re-started today under the Rally 2 regulations, but was forced out again this afternoon with a transmission problem. Mads Ostberg
also re-joined the fold today, after his off in SS3 on Friday. He has hauled himself up from 56th position to 12th, just two spots off a place in the points.