The battle is on between Ales Loprais and Martin van den Brink. At the end of the 403 kilometer long seventh stage, the difference was only 28 seconds. Van den Brink however was given a compensation of 5 minutes, so that he was declared the stage winner with a difference of 4.32. In the ranking the Dutchman still is 26 minutes behind the Czech and he only has 211 kilometers left to make up for that. In the last stage tomorrow the Belgian Paul Verheyden will defend his podium position with a margin of 20 minutes on the Czech Tomas Vratny.
Martin van den Brink: "We lost a few minutes at the end of the stage, where the navigation was one big tangle. In such situations it is a disadvantage if you have to open the stage: we took a wrong turn, Loprais saw that and immediately took the right path. That way he came over the finish line right behind us. The stage was great, with nice, fast gravel paths and beautiful views. We drove fast, but in a way that spared the material. Wouter and Mitchel changed a tyre during the lunch break."
Ales Loprais: "We were in control. Today it was about the brakes and the tires and so it was important to use your brains. We had a small leak in one tire, but we could solve that by pumping air into it. The plan was to change tires during the lunch break and I had asked race direction if that was allowed, but in the end it turned out to be unnecessary and I sent the service team away again. The second part of the stage was a lot more interesting than the first. There was more to lose than to win. We go into the last stage tomorrow with the same mindset as the previous seven stages. As far as I am concerned, that stage is no different than otherwise. Only at the finish will the prizes be given."
Paul Verheyden: "We have driven a bit more conservatively today. Hence the eleventh place in the stage. I prefer the sand and the dunes, not of those fast paths. Yesterday, we therefore tried to open the gap to Vratny. Today it was a matter of racing as usual, but within the limits of the risks. I expected Vratny to take a minute or ten, but it turns out to be only three. That makes driving more pleasant tomorrow.
I have been driving rallies for many years, but I have never reached a podium place. Usually I’m in service for others to provide fast assistance and I am satisfied when I reach the top 10. It is certainly exciting now that it matters, but I do not get nervous about it."
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