Ott Tanak has checked out to a 28.8s lead of Rally Great Britain after a superb Friday in Wales, in contrast to his key World Rally Championship rivals.
Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Tanak won the first three stages of the day and two more in the afternoon to put himself in a commanding position, while championship leader Thierry Neuville caught a lucky break to move into second.
Sebastien Ogier is 38.2s off the lead in fifth after a gearbox problem for his M-Sport Ford during the morning loop.
“It has been a very nice day,” said Tanak.
“I think our car’s performance has been really good today. It looks like we have made a good step and even in low-grip conditions we are quite competitive.
“We are in a good position but there is still a long, long way to go, so we need to keep focused and keep pushing.”
Neuville was as low as sixth after running long at a junction in his Hyundai on Special Stage 4, and generally lacked pace.
However, he pulled back some ground on the next two stages, the former of which he won, and also topped the second run through Penmachno at the end of the afternoon.
His cause was furthered by the retirement of 2017 Great Britain winner Elfyn Evans, who had been second overall, with a misfire in his M-Sport Ford at the start of the afternoon loop.
Jari-Matti Latvala sits third having been the day’s other stage winner, on the second run through the Slate Mountain test, while Esapekka Lappi makes for a Toyota one-three-four.
Ogier dropped as far back as eighth after his Fiesta lost first and second gear during SS4, spinning twice during the morning.
Third in the championship at this, the third-last round of the year, he signalled an aggressive approach for the rest of the rally.
“It’s difficult to be positive tonight and unfortunately we can’t change what happened,” said the Frenchman.
“I pushed really hard this afternoon, but the times just weren’t good enough.
“There is no point for us to finish in fourth or fifth position, so we need to take full risk tomorrow.”
New Zealander Hayden Paddon is seventh, having struggled with being ninth in the road order in his Hyundai.
“We have tried to have a clean day today,” said Paddon.
“In the morning loop, I felt comfortable in the car but we were lacking some grip and traction in the conditions. We had an off-stage excursion in the second stage that cost us some time.
“We kept focused on our plan with road order playing quite a key role in the afternoon loop.
“We will have a more beneficial starting position on Saturday and will look to make some gains during the day.”
M-Sport Ford’s Teemu Suninen retired after a crash on the final stage of the day.
Saturday is a huge 150.24km day with nine stages and no service, starting this evening at 1735 AEST.
Highlights: Stages 1 to 6
Highlights: Stages 7 to 9
Rally Turkey: After Special Stage 9 (Top 10)
|1||8||Ott Tanak||EST||Toyota Gazoo||Yaris WRC||1:06:04.3|
|2||5||Thierry Neuville||BEL||Hyundai||i20 WRC||+28.8|
|3||7||Jari-Matti Latvala||FIN||Toyota Gazoo||Yaris WRC||+31.3|
|4||9||Esapekka Lappi||FIN||Toyota Gazoo||Yaris WRC||+35.9|
|5||1||Sebastien Ogier||FRA||M-Sport Ford||Fiesta WRC||+38.2|
|6||11||Craig Breen||IRL||Citroen||C3 WRC||+48.8|
|7||6||Hayden Paddon||NZL||Hyundai||i20 WRC||+1:06.4|
|8||10||Mads Ostberg||NOR||Citroen||C3 WRC||+1:08.4|
|9||4||Andreas Mikkelsen||NOR||Hyundai||i20 WRC||+1:24.3|
|10||36||Kalle Rovanpera||FIN||Skoda||Fabia R5||WRC2||+3:08.4|