The leading WRC drivers have criticized the organizers of Rallye de France for the repeat running of the event's longest stage, the 35-kilometer Pays d'Ormont.
The stage was covered in mud after the entire field passed through the stage south of the event's base in Strasbourg. Rally leader Sebastien Loeb admitted he could scarcely believe the conditions, the Frenchman taking two minutes longer to complete the test than he had this morning.
"I can't believe how bad the stage was – it was quite terrible," said the rally leader. "I am feeling happy to be out of the stage, the feeling I have when I have won a rally – that's how glad I am to be here."
Loeb's Citroen teammate Dani Sordo was equally scathing. The second-placed Spaniard added: "I can't believe it. It's a really stupid stage, I smile because I arrive at the end of the stage. It's not tarmac, it's not gravel, it's nothing. I'm glad I didn't have to fight in the stage."
The two drivers who are fighting for the final podium slot, after Sebastien Ogier retired with suspension trouble, are Petter Solberg and Jari-Matti Latvala. Solberg holds the upper hand, but felt he backed off too much in the stage, having been eight seconds up on Loeb at one point. Solberg was still fastest in the test.
Latvala said: "It's a very interesting situation, we both want the podium – but in these conditions it's very hard. It's unbelievable. The mud was in the screen, I couldn't get the washer fluid on the screen quick enough to clear the mud."
The happiest man on the stage was Mikko Hirvonen, who appears to have found the confidence he was searching for. He was second fastest, just 1.6sec down on Solberg.
"Jarmo [Lehtinen, co-driver] just asked me what's going on now," said Hirvonen. "Why are we going so fast? I don't know. It was not nice in there, but I found some confidence."