The WRC Central European Rally delivered its longest stage, the 27.15 km Mühltal stage – where brightening skies belied the damp, smooth and slippery asphalt below. The fast and flowing nature of the Austrian stage tempted the crews to give their cars free rein but wet mud pulled out onto the road surface tempered their speed, with rain tyres remaining the preferred choice for the conditions – only Ott Tänak trying a single soft dry tyre on the front of his Ford Puma after picking up a puncture on the road section. The Estonian’s day getting more complicated after the artificial jump put in at the end of the stage caused the electric motor of his hybrid to disengage. Rally leader and WRC points leader Kalle Rovanperä slid off the road and lost almost 25 seconds to Thierry Neuville regaining the road. For his part, Neuville attacked the stage to the limit and claimed the fastest time on the stage with a bravura performance. The gap between the top two men has been slashed to 10.9 seconds as the crews make their way back across the border for their first competitive action in Germany before the mid-day service.
#3 Pierre-Louis Loubet (FRA) / Benjamin Veilas (FRA), Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid
It was very, very demanding in some places. Quite muddy. Surprised me. We lost completely the front tyres five km before the end so I was very cautious at the end but we did a small mistake on a junction, we go wide, it was full of mud already. It was tricky.”
#17 Sébastien Ogier (FRA) / Vincent Landais (FRA), Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid
“The end was a bit better but I really struggled at the start. Some little bit misunderstanding with the notes and not so good start on the stage for sure.”
#18 Takamoto Katsuta (JPN) / Aaron Johnston (IRL), Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid
“No issue just so many surprises I could not trust the pace notes.”
#8 Ott Tänak (EST) / Martin Järveoja (EST), Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid
“We had a puncture on the road section… it was demanding, actually, but then it started to work a bit but ‘wow’. And this little kick now at the end turned the hybrid off, not so much for rallying I guess. My weather guy said this one would be mostly dry and I didn’t see any single dry place so it’s not really going like we expected.”
#11 Thierry Neuville (BEL) / Martijn Wydaeghe (BEL), Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid
“Very challenging stage to be honest. It was okay, still not as I would like but we’re getting closer to what we need to go fast. We did a good stage and it was a bit more enjoyable than the stages we have done so far. Basically, we are going for more and more traction: the car wasn’t progressive enough and when I lost the grip - it was too much on/off. Now it’s getting a little bit more progressive so I can just carry on with more speed but there’s always room for improvement.”
#69 Kalle Rovanperä (FIN) / Jonne Halttonen (FIN), Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid
"I just had a spin on a drift passage that was much more slippery than I expected. It's definitely tricky to know where the car pulled the dirt onto the road. I just wasn't that careful in that one spot.... there's a lot of dirt on the road. It should be fine, we should try to stay on the tarmac now."