Was it too much for Bryan Bouffier to handle or was it simply the world champion had determined a comeback day, but it was Sebastien Ogier who flew through the day with maximum attack to take the lead from his fellow compatriot. Being in a privateer+Msport-supported entry into top level rallying, in Monte up and against the biggies, definitely deserves a loud applaud to the Frenchman. Bravo Bouffier!
The day opened with a monstrous special SS7 Vitrolles - Faye, with 49.03 km between the ends. Ogier emerged victorious and moved up one position to 2nd overall by the stage win, Bouffier finished just under 12s down the winner. Kris Meeke & Robert Kubica quickly populated the scoreboard below. The stage reported heavy downpour mid-way.
Ah, also it is in this stage that Ogier & Mads Ostberg and other fast runners, who had to go off the road just after flying finish to avoid collision with the car & people ahead at the stop control, which was reportedly located in just around 100mts from the flying finish. It was reported as '6th gear flatout at the flying finish' by Mads, and the short tarmac section wet with rain was not sufficient enough to stop the car within that the control zone. However, nothing uneventful happened, with the presence of mind of the drivers and the cars left towards the mid-day service. Lucky or crazy? Lucky, I guess!
SS9 was the second pass of the longest stage [49.03 km] and it was here Ogier really flew against others [despite a hair raising moment in an off, but was lucky] & Bouffier lost considerable time with his off-road excursion [helped by spectators to push his car back on road] and along with it, the rally lead. It was not good either for the Finn Jari-Matti Latvala, it was a stage of agony as he hit a kerb in the very first corner and costed him dearly with a puncture and had to stop to change it, thus slipped down from 6th to 8th in overall ranking. Mads was having a good time, especially on his least preferred surface, wet & that too on tarmac. Perhaps, he Citroen is made for him or he for the double-helical. It was not a good stage for Kubica fans, as he happened to loose control & going off the road, unable to get the car back on road was terminal for his outing. Luckily nobody were hurt, including the crew.
A quick remote service at Digne Les Bains was in schedule and SS11 went on live in the dusky, cold & wet final stage for the day. Clumanc - Lambruisse a distance of 20.77 km & Latvala was the quickest of the lot, Ogier & Meeke finished behind the flying finn. Bryan Bouffier braved this stage with borrowed pacenotes from his senior compatriot Francois Delecour.
Yes, I agree that it is a lengthy writeup for today, but the day was even more dramatic than this. Another four stages for tomorrow, in the dusk & dark will decide and crown the winner & the runner-ups. Until then 'au revoir'!