Toyota’s Ott Tanak with co-driver Martin Jarveoja made it three FIA World Rally Championship wins in a row in Rally Turkey after a dramatic turn of events.
The returning rally in Turkey provided extreme drama especially after both title rivals M-Sport Ford Fiesta’s Sebastian Ogier (co-driver Julien Ingrassia) and Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville (co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul) suffered huge setback.
Neuville headed the Rally Turkey on Friday after seven stages from Ogier by just the 0.3s with Hyundai’s Andreas Mikkelsen (co-driver Anders Jaeger-Synnevaag) in third in the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC.
Mikkelsen won two stages (SS1 & SS4) as did Neuville (SS3 & SS6) with Ogier (SS5), Tanak (SS7) and Citroen’s Craig Breen (co-driver Scott Martin, SS2) winning a stage each in the first two days.
After a sedate running on Friday, it turned dramatic on Saturday which saw several incidents which forced Ogier and Neuville to retire from the day’s running and helping outside contender Tanak into the lead from fifth on Friday.
Neuville’s hopes were dashed in the day’s first stage itself due to a front left suspension issue which helped Ogier to take the lead from Mikkelsen as Toyota’s Jari-Matti Latvala (Miikka Anttila) moved to third.
Not far away, Ogier then hit problems with his suspension in stage nine which took a lot of time for him to fix along with the help from teammate Elfyn Evans (co-driver Daniel Barritt) and his team through phone.
He continued on handing the lead to Mikkelsen but eventually binned it in stage 11 when his Ford WRC was stuck in front of a tree after he slipped in the left-hand corner. At the same time, Mikkelsen suffered transmission problems in his Hyundai i20.
The Norwegian’s issues meant Tanak shot into the lead in SS11 after teammate Latvala suffered a puncture and hydraulic problem with Tanak himself reported a rear damper problem – the whole rally turned upside down in the crazy few stages.
Tanak eventually ended Saturday in the lead from Latvala with Hyundai’s Hayden Paddon (co-driver Sebastian Marshall) slotting in third after they started the day in sixth. M-Sport’s Teemu Sunninen (co-driver Mikko Markkula) was fourth from Mikkelsen.
Despite the troubles, Ogier added two more stage wins (SS8 & SS10) on Saturday with Mikkelsen winning SS9 as Latvala took victory in SS12 and rally leader Tanak winning SS11 and SS13 respectively.
It was for Tanak to just see-through the final day without stretching too far as Toyota already asked both drivers to hold station to give the Estonian a better chance to win the rally and bridge the gap to the leaders.
Even though the Estonian didn’t win any of the remaining stages, the Toyota driver took his third straight win to now sit with 154 points – only 10 behind Ogier (164) and 23 behind Neuville (177) with three rallies remaining.
Latvala made it a Toyota 1-2 with Paddon salving third for Hyundai with Sunninen in fourth and Mikkelsen completing the Top 5. Ogier did well on the final day to win SS15 and SS16 to finish 10th overall and sixth in WRC class.
His teammate was 12th overall and seventh in WRC with championship leader Neuville only managing 16th overall and eighth in WRC class – the Belgian winning the Power Stage (SS17) along with SS14.