16 Apr 10
The Citroen Junior Team’s Sebastien Ogier leads after a dramatic opening four stages of the Rally of Turkey, held in hot and dry weather close to Istanbul.
The first stage claimed two high-profile victims: the Monster World Rally Team Ford Focus RS WRC of Ken Block, who hit a tree stump, and the Stobart Focus of Henning Solberg - who retired with a broken steering arm.
World Championship leader Sebastien Loeb was first on the road and lost a small amount of time sweeping the stages clean, but benefited from not having to dodge rocks that had been pulled onto the racing line by cars ahead. The Citroen driver returned to service in fifth place, less than eight seconds behind the leader.
Citroen privateer Petter Solberg won the first stage, but his plan just to drive according to the split times from the cars in front was scuppered when he stopped receiving them due to a timing glitch.
Ford’s Mikko Hirvonen, who slid wide on a slippery corner of the opening stage, claimed fastest time and the provisional rally lead on SS2, just ahead of his team mate Jari-Matti Latvala - who subsequently dropped a few seconds after damaging his left-rear wheel against a rock, ending up sixth behind Loeb.
Ogier claimed the advantage with a fastest time on SS3, and as the teams headed into first service at Pendik - close to the Istanbul Grand Prix track - the Frenchman’s lead was just over two seconds. Behind him was the factory Citroen C4 WRC of Dani Sordo, who had steered clear of problems to overhaul Hirvonen for second.
“These short, sharp stages have made it really close,” said Hirvonen. “The nature of the roads means that it’s probably going to stay like this all day.” Former Grand Prix Champion Kimi Raikkonen is a solid ninth, having dropped a handful of seconds on SS2 when he struggled to find the right rhythm.
Aaron Burkart leads the Junior World Rally Championship division in his Suzuki Swift S1600 after Kevin Abbring dropped back when his Renault Clio R3 suffered rear brake failure towards the end of SS3. The Dutchman’s challenge suffered a further knock when his Clio’s tailgate opened on SS4 and filled the car with dust. He is currently third in class behind impressive newcomer Thierry Neuville in a Citroen C2 S1600.
Of the five Pirelli Star Drivers competing in Turkey, only Estonia’s Ott Tanak is still going. Tanak said he had been driving at “70 per cent” to avoid repeating the mistakes that claimed three of his team mates - and he is currently 10th overall following a strong showing.
Of his fellow Star Drivers, Peter Horsey crashed on SS2 and was forced to retire when his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X caught fire. Alex Raschi also went off on the same stage. Hayden Paddon failed to complete the opening run when he misjudged a chicane while Nick Georgiou was unable to start the stage after his car suffered power steering failure.
Rally results links on wrc.com:
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