Evans regains WRC lead with win on Rally Turkey
Neuville 2nd, Loeb 3rd
Toyota driver Elfyn Evans held his nerve, rode his luck to an extent and measured his pace to perfection to seal a priceless victory on Rally Turkey, after one of the most dramatic final mornings in the history of the FIA World Rally Championship.
Partnered by Scott Martin, the Welshman reached the finish 35.2 seconds in front of the Hyundai crew of Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul to reclaim the lead in the FIA World Rally Championship. Behind them, French legend Sébastien Loeb and co-driver Daniel Elena gave the Korean firm vital Manufacturers’ points with the final place on the podium.
The first of two passes through the 38.15 kilometre Çetibeli stage delivered drama from the start. The brutal nature of the track surface forced the retirements of Hyundai’s WRC rookie Pierre-Louis Loubet and M-Sport Ford’s Teemu Suninen, while time-consuming punctures threw the leader board into chaos, with Evans and M-Sport Ford driver Gus Greensmith the only drivers in the top eight at that point to escape tyre damage and punctures.
It was that element of good fortune that paved the way for Evans to secure a third career FIA WRC victory to accompany his home success in 2017 and a stunning win in Sweden in February.
A maiden triumph in Turkey has also thrown the title race wide open. Toyota team-mates Evans and Sébastien Ogier now head to Sardinia separated by 18 points in the overall classification, following the six-time World Champion’s cruel engine overheating issues on the penultimate stage. Defending World Champion Ott Tänak and young Kalle Rovanperä are nine points further behind, with Neuville 32 adrift.
The topsy-turvy morning played havoc with the entire leader board and 19-year-old Rovanperä eventually reached the finish in fourth place. Gus Greensmith and Esapekka Lappi slotted into fifth and sixth in the two surviving M-Sport Ford Fiestas – the former earning a career-best result.
Poland’s Kajetan Kajetanowicz climbed to the dizzy heights of seventh overall on his way to an impressive victory in the FIA WRC3 category.
Closest class rival Marco Bulacia was 10th and moved to the top of the leader board in the championship. The two FIA WRC2 front-runners, Škoda’s Pontus Tidemand and M-Sport’s Adrien Fourmaux, were classified in eighth and ninth, the former maintaining his hopes of beating Mads Østberg to the title. Turkey’s Yaĝiz Avci and Burak Çukorova were third and fifth in FIA WRC3 with Chile’s Alberto Heller sandwiched between them in fourth.
Defending World Champion Tänak lost his chance of taking victory on Friday due to steering issues but earned four Power Stage points on the final Power Stage.
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