Ott Tänak led Rally Turkey as drama followed drama in Saturday afternoon’s opening speed test.
Stage info: SS11
Yeşilbelde 2, 34.24km
It’s a tough start to Saturday afternoon with another long and demanding test. It runs alongside the coast at the start and finish, with dramatic views to the sea below in the final few kilometres. It’s open and smooth initially before becoming rougher, but it’s not until the midpoint that drivers encounter a straight worthy of the name.
Andreas Mikkelsen (above) watched his lead disappear as a suspected transmission problem slowed his Hyundai i20, while Sébastien Ogier’s sterling efforts to repair his Ford Fiesta earlier proved in vain as the Frenchman went off the road and hit a tree.
Tänak stopped the clocks fastest through the Yeşilbelde special stage in his Toyota Yaris to lead team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala by 13.0sec, but even those two were not immune to the chaos going on around them.
The Estonian reported a suspected rear damper problem. Latvala, third fastest in the stage, finished with a rear puncture and a hydraulic problem, which meant he had to use the manual gearchange system and had limited use of his handbrake.
Mikkelsen spun twice and was too upset to speak about his problems at the finish. He stopped shortly after to work on his i20, which was believed to have rear-wheel drive only.
Ogier slid off the road 19.8km into the stage, his Fiesta swiping a tree on co-driver Julien Ingrassia’s side. Although the car was barely off the road, it was beached and the French pair could not regain the stage.
Craig Breen was another driver in trouble. He twice stopped in the stage as his Citroën C3 filled with smoke. The Irishman dropped almost six minutes and left the finish quickly.
However, on the following liaision section the car burst into flames and burned out, despite Tänak stopping to lend assistance with his fire extinguisher. Neither Breen (below) nor co-driver Scott Martin were hurt.
Haydon Paddon survived unscathed to climb to third in his i20, 36.9sec behind Latvala and 16.0sec up on Mikkelsen. Teemu Suninen was fifth in a Fiesta with the R5-specification Skoda Fabia of Henning Solberg in sixth.
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