Dani Sordo has gone fastest in shakedown for Rallye de France Alsace, round 11 of the FIA World Rally Championship.
At the wheel of a MINI John Cooper Works WRC, Sordo set a fastest time of 2m34.1s through the 3.8-kilometre Parc des Sports-Hautepierre stage this morning. He was 0.3s faster than factory Ford pilot Jari-Matti Latvala with Petter Solberg 0.6s further back in his similar Fiesta.
Sebastien Loeb, who can secure his ninth WRC drivers’ crown in France this week, covered the practice stage in 2m35.5s with Thierry Neuville 0.2s behind his fellow Citroen driver. Shakedown began in dry conditions at 07:30hrs local time this morning although there was light drizzle later in the morning.
While Sordo’s Prodrive team played down the Spaniard’s effort, admitting the shakedown stage was not “indicative” of the bulk of the competitive route, it follows on the back of a successful pre-event test and the introduction of a new engine software calibration and an enhanced gear cut to improve shift speeds.
“It's the first time I have driven the car with these changes, but it feels much better and stronger,” said Sordo. “I am also really pleased the FIA has agreed all WRC cars can have gravel notes. I am sure the times will be close this week, so every little bit of time we can find will help.”
Mikko Hirvonen and Nasser Al-Attiyah were joined sixth fastest in their Citroens. Mads Ostberg was eighth quickest with Evgeny Novikov ninth and Ott Tanak 10th.
Top 10 shakedown times
1 Dani Sordo (MINI) 2m34.1s
2 Jari-Matti Latvala (Ford) 2m34.4s
3 Petter Solberg (Ford) 2m35.0s
4 Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) 2m35.5s
5 Thierry Neuville (Citroen) 2m35.7s
6 Mikko Hirvonen (Citroen) 2m37.5s
= Nasser Al-Attiyah (Citroen) 2m37.5s
8 Mads Ostberg (Ford) 2m38.0s
9 Evgeny Novikov (Ford) 2m39.4s
10 Ott Tanak (Ford) 2m40.0s.
SS1: Neuville tops Strasbourg test
Thierry Neuville is the early leader of Rallye de France Alsace after he went fastest through the 3.63-kilometre Strasbourg stage this evening.
Driving a Citroen DS3 WRC, the Belgian youngster set a 2m44.7s in increasingly fading light to top the leaderboard by 0.8s ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala, who said he made a small mistake in his factory Ford Fiesta RS WRC. Neuville, meanwhile reckoned he lost a few vital seconds sliding wide at one corner.
Dani Sordo said he didn’t take many risks at the wheel of his Prodrive MINI John Cooper Works WRC after he shared the joint third fastest time with Mikko Hirvonen and Petter Solberg.
Sebastien Loeb’s co-driver Daniel Elena’s protégé Sebastien Chardonnet impressed on his first WRC outing in a Citroen DS3 WRC by outpacing the eight-time world champions by 0.2s, 1.4s down on Neuville in sixth position.
Loeb said: “It was okay but I struggled on the first loop because I was not so happy with my pace notes. We did the recce for this stage not in my normal recce car and the notes were a bit wrong. I tried to adjust my rhythm on the second lap.”
Nasser Al-Attiyah suffered a spin in the second corner and dropped 20 seconds at the wheel of his Qatar World Rally Team Citroen. He reported a knock to his right-rear wheel in the process. Martin Prokop said his Fiesta was being hobbled by an engine misfire.
Chris Atkinson reported a moment when he locked up the brakes of his WRC Team MINI Portugal entry. Yvan Muller suggested a power issue had slowed his Prodrive-run MINI, while Romain Dumas said he was experiencing understeer in his MINI.
Craig Breen set the pace in the Super 2000 World Rally Championship, while Alastair Fisher was the fastest FIA WRC Academy runner, earning a championship point in the process. However, there was despair by category rival Timo van der Marel, who took the right-wheel off his Fiesta R2.
Friday’s action begins with the 28.67-kilometre Hohlandsbourg-Firstplan test at 09:23hrs local time.
click: wrc.com/news/france ss1