Volkswagen's Jari-Matti Latvala set the top time this morning in the shakedown for Rallye de France-Alsace.
Latvala is targeting his first win on asphalt
this weekend and he posted his quickest effort on his fourth and final run through the 3.80 km Hautepierre test, completing it in 2 minutes 36 seconds, 1.2 seconds up on Citroen's Kris Meeke.
“I struggled a little in the test with understeer and was a bit worried how the car would be in shakedown, but on the first run it felt really good,” Latvala told the official WRC site. “We made a couple of changes to the set-up and I felt it was getting even better so now I have a good feeling.”
Championship leader and defending champion, Sebastien Ogier tied for third with Dani Sordo, while Andreas Mikkelsen and Thierry Neuville rounded out the top five.
“It's a fantastic feeling to come home again. Last year at the Rally France, Julien [Ingrassia - my co-driver] and I had the most emotional moment of our career when we were able to celebrate our first world championship title. But it's a different story this year," Ogier noted. "We need six points more than Jari-Matti, and that won't be easy because he's in great form at the moment. But I'm in good form too, the Polo R WRC felt perfect in the shakedown – all in all the conditions are good for a repeat of the success story of twelve months ago. I'll try to get into a good rhythm for the rally quickly, without taking any unnecessary risks.”
"We had a good test ahead of the Rally France. The 'recce' in the last few days and the shakedown today – it all went well," Mikkelsen added.
"For us, today was about getting a good feeling for asphalt, even though the shakedown route has a totally different character to the special stages that are up next as of tomorrow. Being fast right from the start – that will be the key here in France. We're ready for the challenge.”
Further back Mads Ostberg was seventh, with Robert Kubica, Yuriy Protasov and Elfyn Evans in positions 8 through to 10.
“The new tyres are working well and I am happy with the set up of the car,” said Ostberg. “I had a good feeling this morning and hope for that to last all weekend. I am aiming for a top five and my confidence is actually much better than in Australia.”
The event now gets underway on Friday with seven stages on the bill and a competitive distance of 114.75 kilometres.
SS1, the 11.11 kilometre run through Col de la Carbonniere 1, is due to start tomorrow at 08.44 hours local time [07.44 hours UK time].
Rallye de France-Alsace - Shakedown results (Top 10):
1. Jari-Matti Latvala
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC 2m 36.0s
2. Kris Meeke
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC 2m 37.2s
3. Sebastien Ogier
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC 2m 37.7s
= Dani Sordo
Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC 2m 37.7s
5. Andreas Mikkelsen
Volkswagen Motorsport II Polo R WRC 2m 39.1s
6. Thierry Neuville
Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC 2m 39.3s
7. Mads Ostberg
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC 2m 39.5s
8. Robert Kubica
RK M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC 2m 39.6s
9. Yuriy Protasov
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC 2m 42.0s
10. Elfyn Evans
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC 2m 42.1s
11. Dennis Kuipers
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC 2m 42.5s
12. Bryan Bouffier
Hyundai Motorsport N i20 WRC 2m 42.7s
13. Mikko Hirvonen
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC 2m 43.5s
all times unofficial