Turkey, friday: Lappi and Ogier delight Citroën
Tough day for WRC leader Tänak
SS2: Latvala claims Turkey lead
Jari-Matti Latvala swept into the lead of Rally Turkey with a commanding victory in Friday morning’s opening dirt road speed test in his Toyota Yaris.
The Finn climbed from ninth after last night’s curtain-raising special stage in the streets of Marmaris after stopping the clocks 5.3sec faster than fellow Finn Esapekka Lappi in the rough and rocky 24.85km Içmeler test.
Latvala topped the overall standings by 1.1sec from joint overnight leader Andreas Mikkelsen, but admitted his pace was a surprise.
“I didn’t expect that, I’m actually surprised we’ve set such a good time. We took it fairly slowly as the surface is broken up and the rocks are coming up,” he said.
Finns locked out the top three in the stage with Teemu Suninen tying for third fastest with Mikkelsen’s Hyundai i20, 0.4sec behind Lappi, who was also surprised by his time.
“It felt quite bad to be honest. Even though I drove badly, the time will be better because it is cleaning. It’s too soft, I can’t trust the front so we need to make the car a bit stiffer and then it will be fine,” said the Citroën C3 pilot.
Suninen set the best intermediate times in his Ford Fiesta but a mid-stage spin in a slow corner cost valuable seconds.
Championship leader Ott Tänak was fifth in the stage and the overall standings, 0.3sec ahead of Yaris team-mate Kris Meeke, whose concentration was disturbed when a puncture warning light on his dashboard flashed up just after the midpoint.
“It’s difficult – it’s slow and no grip. In the beginning the rhythm was not great but it was better in the middle. A bit so-so but we did all we could,” said Tänak, who is first in the start order and had to carve a clean line through the slippery gravel.
He lost no time but the rock-strewn roads caused punctures for Sébastien Ogier, Dani Sordo and Pontus Tidemand. Although Ogier dropped only 10sec in his C3, Sordo and Tidemand both yielded 50sec as they battled to the finish.
SS3-4: Lappi leaps clear
Esapekka Lappi led Rally Turkey after Friday’s opening group of speed tests following a morning that was dominated by Finnish drivers.
The Citroën C3 pilot charged to the front after a dominant victory in the 38.15km Çetibeli special stage. He extended his advantage over Andreas Mikkelsen’s Hyundai i20 to 9.0sec in the following Ula test.
Lappi benefited from cleaner roads and better grip further down the start order and eased clear of his Norwegian rival, who struggled for traction in Ula.
“We’ve stayed out of trouble and had no big dramas. The car is working well. In the last one I was a bit too slow but it’s better to be safe,” explained Lappi.
Mikkelsen held second all morning through the rocky mountain stages but the Norwegian rued his tyre choice in Ula. “I was on full hards but I should have used mediums in there. It was a good stage, just no traction,” he said.
Jari-Matti Latvala sandwiched fellow Finn Lappi with two stage wins in his Toyota Yaris to hold third, 4.0sec behind Mikkelsen. Only an over-cautious drive through Çetibeli, in which he dropped more than 20sec to his countryman, prevented him from leading.
“I took it too carefully. I was expecting so many loose rocks and I wanted to get through safely so I took it slowly. I had a bit of an attack in the next stage. I was quite angry with myself at losing time, but at least it saved our tyres to have a push in the next one!” he said.
World champion Sébastien Ogier recovered from his early puncture to climb to fourth in his C3, 2.1sec behind Latvala and 1.5sec clear of another Finn, Teemu Suninen.
Championship leader Ott Tänak completed the top six in his Yaris, 21.6sec off the lead. He struggled for grip on the loose roads and was the only driver not to take two spare tyres.
“I believe we made the best tyre choice possible. The risk for one spare wasn’t so high as we were opening the road. Conditions weren’t so bad yet but in the second loop it will be very different,” said the Estonian.
Thierry Neuville was seventh and frustrated with his ‘very bad morning’. The Belgian complained that his i20 was too tail-happy when he tried to push hard, but ended the morning with second fastest in Ula.
Kris Meeke and opening stage puncture victims Dani Sordo and Pontus Tidemand completed the leaderboard.
SS5: Lappi widens advantage
Rally Turkey leader Esapekka Lappi extended his advantage in Friday afternoon’s opening speed test as attention turned towards darkening skies in the hills north of rally base Marmaris.
Fifth fastest time for the Finn through the repeated 24.85km Içmeler special stage was sufficient for him to increase his lead over Andreas Mikkelsen to 12.4sec. The morning pass left even more rocks littering the dirt roads and Lappi breathed a sigh relief at the finish.
“I’ve never seen this kind of stage. I had at least 15 huge hits on the car. I don’t know if I have punctures because my display isn’t showing any pressures, but we’re here. We need to be cautious all the time, but even then you can’t ignore the rocks,” said the Citroën C3 driver.
Mikkelsen, driving a Hyundai i20, ceded 3.4sec to his rival but in worse trouble was Jari-Matti Latvala, who plunged from third to eighth after a front right puncture on his Toyota Yaris cost almost a minute.
“First we had a problem with the boot. I don’t know if it was open or not because there was so much noise in the car so I struggled to hear the notes. Then we hit a rock in a corner,” explained the Finn.
Latvala’s woes promoted Sébastien Ogier into third in another C3. Third fastest for the Frenchman meant he trailed Mikkelsen by only a tenth.
Fastest time for Kris Meeke, despite a stall at a hairpin early in the stage, boosted the Briton to sixth. He was 1.5sec behind championship leader Ott Tänak.
Tyre choice was the big talking point before the test. With forecasts of rain in the day’s final stage, several drivers opted for a mix of Michelin’s hard and medium compound rubber to cover the possibility of wet and muddy roads. Others favoured hard rubber all round, the logical choice for hot and dry conditions.
After SS7: Lappi and Ogier delight Citroën
Esapekka Lappi headed a Citroën Racing 1-2 at Rally Turkey as Friday’s topsy-turvy opening leg gave fresh impetus to WRC title challengers Sebastien Ogier and Thierry Neuville.
Lappi ended a long and tough day, in which the elements threw all they could at the competitors, with a 17.7sec lead over Citroën C3 team-mate and world champion Ogier. Neuville was 0.7sec further back in a Hyundai i20.
Championship leader Ott Tänak languished in eighth after a troubled day aboard his Toyota Yaris offered fresh hope to his title rivals. Neuville trailed the Estonian by 33 points in the championship with Ogier 40 behind going into round 11 of 14.
Intense heat and rock-strewn mountain roads above Turkey’s Turquoise Coast provided a fierce morning challenge. The afternoon was even more demanding as rougher roads and heavy rain meant grip was at a premium.
Jari-Matti Latvala took the lead in the opening special stage from Neuville and Andreas Mikkelsen, who were tied after Thursday night’s short curtain-raiser. Lappi moved ahead in the next and extended his advantage in each of the four remaining speed tests.
“I’ve never seen this kind of stage, I had at least 15 huge hits on the car,” he said after this afternoon’s penultimate stage. We’ve had no dramas so far, apart from a stall in a hairpin. A 17sec lead is a lot in Finland, but on this rally even one minute is not a lot,” said Lappi.
The penultimate 38.15km Çetibeli stage turned the leaderboard upside down. Rain made conditions treacherous for those who opted for Michelin’s hard compound tyres, the logical choice for hot and dry weather. Those using medium compounds prospered.
Thierry Neuville set a storming time when the rain hit in SS6 to move into third overall.
Fastest time for Neuville promoted the Belgian from seventh to third after a frustrating morning in which he fought against his i20’s handling. In the final test, he closed further on Ogier, who survived with only a puncture to delay him.
Teemu Suninen steered his Ford Fiesta into fourth, despite an opening stage spin. The Finn ended 25.0sec behind Neuville and 19.7sec ahead of Mikkelsen, who held second all day before losing almost a minute on the wrong tyres in Çetibeli.
Fastest time in the final stage promoted Dani Sordo to sixth in an i20 after an early puncture. The Spaniard had 6.9sec in hand over Kris Meeke, who also had tyre issues and drove cautiously after damaging the wheel jacking point on his Yaris.
Tänak was 5.3sec behind his team-mate after losing time carving a clear line through the loose gravel this morning and dropping almost 80sec with a puncture.
Latvala plunged to ninth on a disappointing day for Toyota Gazoo Racing following an afternoon puncture, while Pontus Tidemand completed the leaderboard in a Fiesta.
Saturday follows a similar format of two groups of three stages, but this time the route heads west of Marmaris. More than 110km of competition are packed into six tests, with stunning picture-postcard views of the Mediterranean coastline.
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