WRC 2 championship leader Jan Kopecký recovered from an early setback to secure a 16.3sec lead after a dramatic opening leg at Rally Turkey.
The Czech driver won four of the six tough gravel tests that made up Friday’s route in his Skoda Fabia R5.
Second after Thursday night’s Super Special in Marmaris, Kopecký took the lead on Friday’s opening stage and extended his advantage to 9sec over team-mate, and title rival, Pontus Tidemand with a fastest time on SS4.
But Kopecký’s 100 per cent winning record in 2018 looked in jeopardy when he stopped to change two wheels in SS5. It could have been a disaster had Tidemand not suffered an identical blow in the same test.
That meant Kopecký lost a minimal amount of time to his Skoda Motorsport team-mate and, although he fell behind the Swede and WRC 2 debutant Chris Ingram, he was still firmly in the hunt for category honours.
Kopecký’s charge back to the front was boosted by further misfortune for Tidemand. He suffered additional tyre damage in SS6 but had no more spares to fit. He started SS7, but retired halfway through the test.
Fastest time through Friday’s final stage, Çiçekli 2, enabled Kopecký to regain the lead and complete his recovery.
Ingram finished the day in second after an assured performance in his Toksport-entered Fabia, while Simone Tempestini was third. The Citroën C3 R5 driver lost almost four minutes having to replace a wheel in the fifth stage but his solid pace in the other tests ensured he remained in podium contention.
Kajetan Kajetanowicz, winner of Thursday’s Super Special, was unable to maintain his early pace as he battled power steering problems in his Ford Fiesta R5. He completed the day 1min 33.6sec ahead of Pedro Heller, who also lost power steering this morning.
Turkish champion Burak Cukurova completed the top-six in his Fabia, but he’s already more than two minutes behind his Chilean rival.
Joining Tidemand on the retirement list were Gus Greensmith, who slid off the road on SS2, and Murat Bostanci who clipped a bank and broke a wheel in the same stage.