Patience paid dividends for Ott Tänak as he claimed a third consecutive victory in Rally Turkey’s dramatic return to the WRC. His cautious pace in searing heat and on rocky gravel roads delivered, as driver after driver retired in gruelling conditions.
Leg 1: Friday
Thierry Neuville and Sébastien Ogier were separated by 0.3sec for the lead after a surprising opening leg. That either was at the head of the leaderboard was a shock given the handicap of starting first and second in the order on roads covered in sand and gravel.
Neuville was inside the top six all day in his Hyundai i20 and took the lead in the final kilometres, despite overshooting a bend, when long-time leader and team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen lost vital seconds due to worn tyres.
Mikkelsen ended 2.3sec behind Ogier’s Ford Fiesta. Jari-Matti Latvala struggled for grip in his Toyota Yaris but held fourth, 16.3sec off the lead.
Team-mate Tänak complained of similar traction problems but climbed from ninth to fifth in the final two stages. He had 3.2sec in hand over Haydon Paddon. Elfyn Evans and Mads Østberg both retired in the penultimate stage with broken suspension.
Leg 2: Saturday
Tänak steered clear of trouble to lead after the most dramatic WRC day in years. He led by 13.1sec from Latvala after Neuville and Ogier retired, and Mikkelsen hit problems.
Neuville was sidelined when the front left suspension punched though his i20’s bonnet in the opening speed test, leaving Ogier 22.5sec ahead.
But in the next test Ogier broke his front right wishbone. He wrestled to install an ill-fitting replacement, helped by team-mate Evans who relayed advice from engineers over the telephone. The Frenchman continued, only to swipe a tree in the afternoon’s opening stage, leaving his Fiesta beached.
Mikkelsen regained the lead but a broken front driveshaft cost almost four minutes and he plunged to fifth. Paddon was nearly a minute adrift of Latvala in third, with Teemu Suninen and Henning Solberg sandwiching Mikkelsen.
It was a disastrous day for Citroën’s Craig Breen and Østberg. Breen’s C3 caught fire and burned out while Østberg stopped with a broken turbo. Esapekka Lappi also retired after crashing.
Leg 3: Sunday
The final leg was quiet in comparison. Tänak headed a Toyota 1-2 by 22.3sec from Latvala and was welcomed onto the podium by Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Second was Latvala’s best result of the year and Paddon claimed a similar season-best in third, 1min 46.3sec behind Tänak. Suninen, Mikkelsen and Solberg completed the top six.