Neuville leads as Loeb, Ogier struggle in France
Belgium's driver Thierry Neuville and his co-pilot Nicolas Gilsoul steer their Ford Fiesta RS WRC, during the second stage of France's WRC round, Rally Alsace on October 4, 2013 in Heilingenstein, eastern France
Neuville made the most of the hard tyres fitted to his Ford Fiesta to lead Spanish Citroen driver Dani Sordo by 9.9sec with Finland's Jari-Matti Latvala sitting third in a Volkswagen Polo at 11.8sec.
"I made a good tyre choice," said Neuville.
"When the weather is changeable like that the choice of tyres is always a bit of a lottery."
Loeb and newly-crowned world champion Sebastien Ogier made the wrong tyre choice for the dry conditions in north eastern France with the French pair sitting fourth and fifth respectively.
"You can’t always be at your best all of the time," said Ogier, who clinched his first world rally title on Thursday, succeeding compatriot Loeb who won the last nine championships.
Local hero Loeb also blamed his choice of tyre for losing the race lead.
"I started the afternoon in wet mode and not a drop fell," complained the man from Alsace.