Former Formula 1 pilot Robert Kubica was fastest on Thursday morning in a wet and rainy shakedown for Tour de Corse – Rally de France.
Kubica, who skipped the last event in Australia, opted for five passes through the 3.88 km Poggio-di-Venaco test, going quickest in his Fiesta RS WRC on his third run, when he completed it in 2 minutes 19 seconds, leaving him 0.8 seconds up on Citroen's Kris Meeke.
“We tested here two weeks ago and did a small test in Italy before coming here, but in completely different conditions,” Kubica told the official WRC site. “Heavy rain is predicted for tomorrow and it will be a big challenge just to stay on the road. So my confidence isn't really high, but it's the same for everyone. It will be a big day if the heavy rain comes.”
Meanwhile, Jari-Matti Latvala was third - and the best Volkswagen - 0.5s off Meeke and 0.3s up on team-mate and three-time World Rally Champion Sebastien Ogier in fourth.
"We took full advantage of the time available to us on the shakedown and tried out various set-ups," said Latvala. "It was very slippery on the wet asphalt – nothing like it was during our test, when we had glorious sunshine. In the end, I am happy with the result.
"We are expecting very unsettled conditions all weekend, so you have to try to find a good rhythm. We will not attack from the word go, as the risk of making a costly mistake is just too great. However, we will obviously do our very best."
"The shakedown went well," Ogier added. "We tried a few more set-up variants than we would otherwise do, as we were not able to test last week.
"It is going to be an extremely difficult rally though – particularly given the weather forecast. We are expecting heavy rainfall on Friday, with a lot of standing water on the asphalt. It will be even more important than usual not to make any mistakes. The Tour de Corse is very unforgiving. If you don't stay on the right line here, your rally can be over in a flash."
Behind, Hyundai's Dani Sordo rounded out the top-five, with Mads Ostberg and Kevin Abbring in joint sixth. Andreas Mikkelsen and Thierry Neuville then tied for eighth, while Elfyn Evans was tenth.
“The rally here on Corsica is a completely new event for the Polo R WRC. And although I have I have contested the rally twice in the WRC and twice in the IRC, my experience amounts to about ten kilometres against the clock – and they were in the opposite direction to what we will be driving this weekend,” Mikkelsen remarked.
“On top of that, we must cope with the weather, as the forecast is not particularly good. As such, the priority for the shakedown was to get a good feel for the handling after switching from the Australian gravel to the Corsican asphalt, and to find a good set-up for the Polo. I think we did that. We have a very tiring rally ahead of us – with corners, corners and more corners. There are basically no straights, so we hardly have any time to catch a breather. However, we are ready for it.”
Tour de Corse – Rally de France now begins later today with the ceremonial start in Place d'Austerlitz Ajaccio at 19.00 hours local time [18.00 hours UK time]. The first competitive stage is on Friday. SS1, the 29.12km Plage du Liamone–Sarrola test, is due to start tomorrow at 09.23 hours local time [08.23 hours UK time]. Friday's schedule includes just three stages – but all are long and in total the competitive distance on day one is 109.24km. Full itinerary for round eleven in WRC 2015 available - HERE
2015 Tour de Corse - Rallye de France: Shakedown times (Top 10):
1. Robert Kubica
Ford Fiesta RS WRC 2m 19.0s
2. Kris Meeke
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS 3 WRC 2m 19.8s
3. Jari-Matti Latvala
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC 2m 20.3s
4. Sebastien Ogier
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC 2m 20.6s
5. Dani Sordo
Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC 2m 21.1s
6. Mads Ostberg
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS 3 WRC 2m 21.4s
= Kevin Abbring
Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC 2m 21.4s
8. Thierry Neuville
Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC 2m 21.9s
= Andreas Mikkelsen
Volkswagen Motorsport II Polo R WRC 2m 21.9s
10. Elfyn Evans
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC 2m 22.5s
11. Hayden Paddon
Hyundai Motorsport N i20 WRC 2m 22.6s
12. Stephane Lefebvre
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS 3 WRC 2m 23.7s
13. Ott Tanak
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC 2m 24.8s
14. Martin Prokop
Jipocar Czech National Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC 2m 24.9s
15. Stephane Sarrazin
Ford Fiesta RS WRC 2m 25.5s
16. Bryan Bouffier
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC 2m 25.9s
M denotes Manufacturer entry
(Number in brackets) denotes number of passes
all times unofficial