Volkswagen's Jari-Matti Latvala has taken the lead on Tour de Corse – Rallye de France, despite reporting a gearbox problem.
Latvala slashed Elfyn Evans' overnight lead to just 1.7 seconds this morning in SS5, and on the afternoon test - the 48.46 km Muracciole-Col de Sorba stage, the longest of the event - the Finn was again quicker, gaining 3.7 seconds to conclude the second leg with a 2 second cushion.
Speaking after SS6, however, Latvala revealed the test wasn't without its difficulties, although this time it had nothing to do with the weather.
“My driving was okay but we had a problem with the gearbox and the downshifts,” he explained. “I lost the rhythm after 15km because I had to use the manual system. Okay, we got through. That's the main thing.
“Now we need to go to service and change the box.”
Reflecting on his day as a whole in final service, Latvala added: “I was very happy with today's first stage . I knew that I had to take a few more risks than I did yesterday if I was to have a say in the battle for the podium. It was more difficult than yesterday, because the mud on the road made it even more slippery. Despite this I pushed hard, found a good rhythm and took some time out of Elfyn Evans.
“The afternoon stage also went well for me, although I unfortunately had problems switching gear 15 kilometres in. That meant I made up less time than would otherwise have been possible, but I still lead going into the final day. We still have another 100 kilometres ahead of us, and I am looking forward to every one of them.”
“It's been another really good day for us,” continued Evans, who was third fastest in that final test of the day in his M-Sport-run Fiesta RS WRC. “Having no previous experience of this event I never imagined that I'd be just two seconds off the lead going into the final day but we must have done something right because here we are!
“Of course it was disappointing to lose what was quite a lot of time to Jari-Matti [Latvala] on a single split [through SS5] this morning, but we were really happy with our performance on the second stage [SS6]. To set the third fastest time through a fifty kilometre stage is no easy feat and even though we were a bit hesitant in places I was pleased with the potential we were able to show in there.
“Anything can still happen so we'll be pushing on tomorrow. We don't want to take any unnecessary risks as this is a very high-risk environment, but now that I've got a taste for sitting on the middle seat [on the podium], I want to be sitting there again!
“Tomorrow's stages are quite similar to SS6 so hopefully we can keep the pressure on and take the fight to Jari-Matti. But whatever happens, I certainly won't forget my first experience of this legendary event!”
Meanwhile, VW Motorsport II pilot Andreas Mikkelsen continues to hold third, 28.8s off Evans and 22.8s up on Citroen's Kris Meeke in P4.
“We tried to keep a good pace but I was too careful in the final section. Too much understeer but a clean drive with no big mistakes,” said Mikkelsen.
“The first dry stage of the rally,” Meeke continued. “90 per cent consistent grip. I was happy with my rhythm - couldn't have done much more."
Behind, Hyundai fourth driver Kevin Abbring slipped to fifth and behind Meeke, conceding he was probably a bit too conservative with his set-up, while Mads Ostberg holds sixth ahead of Hayden Paddon, Bryan Bouffier and Stephane Sarrazin.
“To be challenging for a top-five result here in Corsica in only my second rally on tarmac is obviously pleasing, even if it has not been a straight-forward day for us,” said Abbring.
“This morning, we opted to run with hard compound tyres but unfortunately on the drier parts of the stage, when we could have found an advantage, we picked up a puncture and could not push. We found conditions to be a lot drier in the afternoon stage but I was a bit disappointed with our time. We could have been a bit more aggressive with the set-up of the car for those conditions but we are learning all the time. Looking at the positives, we are in fifth overall so tomorrow we will do all we can to keep that.”
Ott Tanak completes the top ten, with Dani Sordo and Stephane Lefebvre eleventh and twelfth.
In WRC2, Julien Maurin has extended his lead over Esapekka Lappi to 19s. Armin Kremer is up to third, with Craig Breen losing over 3 minutes and dropping to P6.
Tour de Corse-Rallye de France now concludes on Sunday with three stages on the bill. Full itinerary for round eleven in WRC 2015 available - HERE
2015 Tour de Corse - Rallye de France: Overall standings after Stage 6 (Top 10):
1. Jari-Matti Latvala
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC 1hr 42m 24.8s
2. Elfyn Evans
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +0m 02.0s
3. Andreas Mikkelsen
Volkswagen Motorsport II Polo R WRC +0m 30.8s
4. Kris Meeke
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS 3 WRC +0m 53.6s
5. Kevin Abbring
Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC +1m 00.1s
6. Mads Ostberg
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS 3 WRC +1m 05.7s
7. Hayden Paddon
Hyundai Motorsport N i20 WRC +1m 25.5s
8. Bryan Bouffier
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1m 37.2s
9. Stephane Sarrazin
Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1m 51.6s
10. Ott Tanak
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1m 53.9s
11. Dani Sordo
Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC +2m 02.6s
12. Stephane Lefebvre
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS 3 WRC +2m 26.9s
13. Julien Maurin
FWRT Srl Ford Fiesta RRC +4m 05.3s
14. Martin Prokop
Jipocar Czech National Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC +4m 07.2s
15. Esapekka Lappi
Skoda Fabia R5 +4m 24.3s
16. Armin Kremer
Skoda Fabia R5 +5m 33.6s
21. Lorenzo Bertelli
Ford Fiesta RS WRC +8m 22.0s
24. Sebastien Ogier
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +9m 26.8s
36. Thierry Neuville
Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC +14m 26.9s
WRC2 standings after Stage 6 (Top 3):
1. Julien Maurin
Ford Fiesta RRC 1hr 46m 30.1s
2. Esapekka Lappi
Skoda Fabia R5 +0m 19.0s
3. Armin Kremer
Skoda Fabia R5 +1m 28.3s
SS1. Thierry Neuville
Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC Hit a bridge
SS3. Pontus Tidemand
Skoda Fabia R5 Suspension
SS3/SS4. Sebastien Ogier
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC Technical
SS5. Robert Kubica
Ford Fiesta RS WRC Stopped
*denotes re-started on Saturday under Rally 2.
M denotes Manufacturer entry
all times unofficial