18 Apr 10
The final morning’s action on the Rally of Turkey was cut short considerably by the cancellation of two special stages in the morning, as the event organisers considered them to be too rough to use.
The decision was on the whole welcomed by drivers and team bosses, who had already complained that some of yesterday’s stages were too hard on the cars.
This left just the 19.22-kilometre Ballica stage remaining this morning, amid rumours that this would be the only stage run this afternoon as well to conclude the rally.
Any worries Citroen star Sebastien Loeb had about his position of first on the road affecting his pace were dispelled when he set fastest time by just 0.3 seconds from Petter Solberg.
“The stage was clean: there were some big jumps and I really enjoyed it,” said Loeb. The Frenchman was helped by overnight rain that made the stages degrade rapidly, effectively cancelling out the disadvantage of running first. The two cancelled stages were run through forests: meaning that they took longer to dry out.
While Loeb’s prospects of victory increased with every cancelled stage, Ballica was a disaster for Mikko Hirvonen - who was forced to renounce his hopes of challenging for a win. The Finn slid wide on a slippery right-hand corner 1.5 kilometres into the stage and his left-rear tyre delaminated after 10 kilometres. This also punched a hole in the wheel arch of his Ford Focus WRC, filling it with dust. “I was pushing hard because with the two cancelled stages this was my only chance to make up ground,” he said. “When you really push, these things can happen.”
Hirvonen slipped back to fourth behind Dani Sordo, who struggled to get to grips with the tricky conditions, but seems assured of a podium place with a 35-second margin over his Ford rival.
Sebastien Ogier maintains his fifth place overall with a stage time just 0.7 seconds off Loeb, leaving him to wonder what might have been had he not lost more than three minutes with a front-left puncture yesterday afternoon.
Former Grand Prix Champion Kimi Raikkonen admitted that he was taking no risks at all as he aims to secure sixth place - which would be his highest-ever finish at World Rally Championship level.
Ott Tanak’s hopes of topping the Pirelli Star Driver contingent ended in spectacular fashion when he rolled close to the start of the stage. The young Estonian had been ninth overall at the time of the crash, which left his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X badly damaged.
Aaron Burkart continues to lead the Junior World Rally Championship division in his Suzuki Swift S1600. The German spent the only stage to have survived he morning cull doing all he could to avoid any errors. “With the lead I have it would be stupid to make a mistake,” he said.
Alessandro Broccoli is a comfortable second in his Renault Clio R3 with Kevin Abbring third in a similar car, despite losing his rear brakes with three kilometres of stage 20 left to run.
Todor Slavov’s Clio has been restored to full working order after exhaust and starter motor problems last night. He holds fourth ahead of Briton Harry Hunt in a Ford Fiesta R2.
Karl Kruuda restarted following his retirement due to a broken driveshaft yesterday. However, he lost time on stage 20 when he caught Adil Kucuksari’s slowing Clio and had to back off due to the dust.
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