Turkey debrief: part 1

The battle for the FIA World Rally Championship drivers’ title took another huge twist amid the blistering heat and rocky roads of Rally Turkey last weekend. We reflect on the talking points in the first of our two-part analysis.

Driver of the Rally
Three weeks ago Citroën Racing was in the depths of despair after struggling through ADAC Rallye Deutschland with severe understeer on its C3s. Fast forward to Turkey and Sébastien Ogier and Esapekka Lappi delivered the French squad’s first 1-2 since Argentina 2015.

Ogier took most of the plaudits as he rekindled his title defence with an audacious tyre gamble on Saturday morning, before controling the rally throughout the second half. Lappi was equally impressive, leading from Friday morning until a small mistake allowed his colleague to edge ahead.

Anyone who heard the entire Citroën squad belting out La Marseillaise with such gusto on Sunday’s podium will realise how much this result meant to everyone. It was, if you forgive the cliché, a genuine team effort and it would be churlish to distinguish between the performance of either driver.

Quote of the Rally
The efforts of Andreas Mikkelsen and Dani Sordo stretched Hyundai Motorsport’s manufacturers’ championship lead to 19 points. On Sunday morning Sordo was well aware of team director Andrea Adamo’s instructions to take no risks in the closing kilometres.

“It’s a nice stage but you are always thinking about if you make a mistake. I don't want to see the face of Adamo if I make a mistake!” said the Spaniard.

Thierry Neuville's title challenge suffered a major setback

Turning Point
Saturday’s opening Yeşilbelde speed test is not one for the faint-hearted. It twists and turns through 33km and not until the midpoint do drivers encounter a straight worthy of the name.

Thierry Neuville started the test trailing Ogier by seven-tenths in the standings. Almost half an hour later he crossed the finish line more than 4min 40sec adrift of his title rival after sliding his i20 off the road and onto its side.

The mistake put Ogier and Lappi more than a minute clear and left the Belgian to reflect on whether this was not just the turning point in the rally, but a pivotal moment in the championship fight.

Save of the Rally
When WRC 2 Pro leader Gus Greensmith launched his Ford Fiesta R5 off the road and into a tree after the flying finish of the penultimate Çiçekli special stage, his hopes of securing the win looked bleak.

Ingenuity, determination not to be beaten and a good old-fashioned heavy right foot were the mix that got the car back onto the road from its resting place and ensured he took maximum points. Take a look how he did it here.

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