Round 11 of the WRC took place on the second weekend of September on the fearsome rock strewn gravel stages around Marmaris and above the Turquoise coast. Blistering heat and a splash of heavy rain would furnish the drivers with a real challenge for both man and machine.
The Thursday evening saw the opening stage of the rally, a short blast around the streets of Marmaris which saw Thierry Neuville & Andreas Mikkelsen to for first position, setting identical times trailed by Pontus Tidemand’s Ford Fiesta in third.
The first proper running started in earnest on Friday morning. Rally Turkey is a true car breaker, massive rocks, dust and searing heat provide a stern test of how reliable the cars and the drivers are punished by the bumps and heat, the rally unsurprisingly has a real similarity to the Acropolis Rally of yore. Jari-Matti Latvala drew first blood taking the opening stage win, his advantage was short lived though as Esapekka Lappi in his Citroen threw caution to the wind and went quickest over the next four stages, team-mate Sebastian Ogier in hot pursuit of Lappi in the sister Citroen C3.
Behind the leading duo, Ott Tanak struggled to find pace in his Toyota Yaris and suffered a puncture, losing over a minute in the process and losing touch with the leading pack. The penultimate stage of the day saw something you wouldn’t associate with such a warm climate, rain and lots of it. The Cetibeli stage threw the rally wide open, anyone running hard tyres lost out massively as their tyres couldn’t find purchase on the rocky slurry on the stage. The main beneficiary was Thierry Neuville who went quickest and gained a huge chunk of time on the cars ahead of him, leaping from seventh into third position.
The second leg of the rally dawned on Saturday and the stages moved away from the Turquoise Coast to the east of Marmaris. The rally bore its teeth straight away, Thierry Neuville, riding high after a strong showing at the end of Friday plunged down the order in the opening stage. Neuville slid off the road and lost 4 minutes getting the car back on the road, pretty much ensuring Neuville would have a massive uphill task to finish on the podium.
Leader Esapekka Lappi and Seb Ogier traded fastest times throughout the day, which would eventually see Ogier just pipping Lappi for the lead by the end of the day…..by .2 of a second, it was also proof that the Citroens were working beautifully on the rocky roads of Turkey. Ott Tanak meanwhile, who was having a bit of a tough time of things found things getting a lot tougher on the liaison section to the second stage of the day. Tanak’s Toyota expired on the roadside, a broken ECU relegating his car to a 400bhp paperweight and a blow to his Championship bid.
Further back, Andreas Mikkelsen & Teemu Sunninen duked it out for third place, at the close of the day it was Mikkelsen who was third ahead of Sunninen’s battered Ford Fiesta. Dani Sordo rounded out the top 5 on Saturday in a no-man’s land, far adrift of Sunninen but a long way ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala & Kris Meeke’s Toyota twins.
The final day of the rally was looking very good for Citroen, Ogier & Lappi ran gently in the morning stages before the final Wolf Power Stage where bonus points are awarded. In fact, everyone took the same approach, the morning leg on Sunday proving to be rather processional as everyone was just trying to survive and bring their cars home in one piece and to save their tyres to get as many bonus points as possible in the power stage.
There was however nothing processional about the final Wolf Power Stage. Ott Tanak who had returned under WRC2 rules opted not to carry a spare wheel, a bold move but not carrying one meant he had a lighter car. Tanak used this to his advantage and set a blinding time which no-one could match and that netted Tanak the five bonus points, salvaging what he could after a weekend to forget for the softly spoken Estonian. Thierry Neuville meanwhile took second in the Power stage and salvaged four points after a less than ideal weekend.
However, it was all about Sebastian Ogier who took his first win since March, with team-mate Esapekka Lappi finishing in second place and Andreas Mikkelsen taking the final step on the podium in his Hyundai. Teemu Sunninen took a strong fourth place finish for Ford while Dani Sordo rounded out the top five in his Hyundai i20. Ogier’s victory has also pulled him back up toward Tanak and clear of Thierry Neuville, with just three rounds of the championship remaining, it is all to play for.
The next round of the Championship sees the WRC rock up into North Wales for Rally GB starting October 3rd and finishing October 6th.
Rally Turkey Results:
- Sebstien Ogier
- Esapekka Lappi
- Andreas Mikkelsen
- Teemu Sunninen
- Dani Sordo
- Ott Tanak – 210 points
- Sebastien Ogier – 193 points
- Thierry Neuville – 180 points
- Andreas Mikkelsen – 94 points
- Kris Meeke – 86 points