World Rally Championship leader Thierry Neuville holds a 0.3s advantage over Sebastien Ogier at the top of the timesheets after the first full day of Rally Turkey.
Neuville didn’t take the overall lead until the final stage of the day when Hyundai team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen struck tyre trouble, but had put himself in a position to profit by winning each of the Ula tests (Special Stages 3 and 6).
The Belgian held on to top spot despite an error in the final stage when he had to reverse after failing to make a bend.
Ogier, like Neuville, outperformed his unfavourable starting position on the dusty tracks.
The defending world champion, who was outside the top 10 due to a spin on Thursday night’s opening stage, was still only seventh and 23.6s off the lead after the morning loop.
However, he stormed through the repeat of the Cetibeli stage (SS5), the longest of the rally, to jump to second overall and briefly head Neuville.
Overnight leader Mikkelsen won SS4 to reclaim top spot before picking up a puncture on the day’s penultimate stage and struggling through the next one, but is only 2.6s off the overall lead in third.
The Toyotas of Jari-Matti Latvala and Ott Tanak follow, the latter winning the final stage of the afternoon.
Hayden Paddon is another 3.2s behind in sixth in the third Hyundai.
“It has been a hard day’s work for pretty much everyone out there today,” said the New Zealander.
“Some of the roughest conditions I have ever seen. We didn’t really get an advantage from our road position so we just stuck to our pace notes.
“We had a broken damper on the final stage, which didn’t help matters but we’re P6 in an incredibly close fight. Considering the conditions, that’s not a bad start.”
The Citroens of Craig Breen and Mads Ostberg both dropped out of contention in the afternoon.
Breen, who won the day’s first stage and led the rally, suffered a puncture during SS6 and is eighth overall.
Ostberg, who ran as high as third, retired on the same stage due to a front suspension breakage, as did Elfyn Evans (M-Sport Ford).
Saturday again comprises two runs through the same three-stage loop for a day of 130.62km, resuming this afternoon (AEST).
Highlights: Stages 1 to 4
Highlights: Stages 5 to 7
Rally Turkey: After Special Stage 7 (Top 10)
|1||5||Thierry Neuville||BEL||Hyundai||i20 WRC||1:52:28.2|
|2||1||Sebastien Ogier||FRA||M-Sport Ford||Fiesta WRC||+0.3|
|3||4||Andreas Mikkelsen||NOR||Hyundai||i20 WRC||+2.6|
|4||7||Jari-Matti Latvala||FIN||Toyota Gazoo||Yaris WRC||+16.3|
|5||8||Ott Tanak||EST||Toyota Gazoo||Yaris WRC||+31.9|
|6||6||Hayden Paddon||NZL||Hyundai||i20 WRC||+35.1|
|7||9||Esapekka Lappi||FIN||Toyota Gazoo||Yaris WRC||+36.8|
|8||11||Craig Breen||IRL||Citroen||C3 WRC||+50.1|
|9||3||Teemu Suninen||FIN||M-Sport Ford||Fiesta WRC||+1:02.9|
|10||81||Henning Solberg||NOR||Henning Solberg||Fabia R5||WRC2||+6:52.0|