Esapekka Lappi leads Rally Turkey in his Citroën following Friday morning’s loop of gravel stages. The Finn holds an advantage of nine seconds ahead of Hyundai driver Andreas Mikkelsen.
Following last night’s opening street stage in the center of the coastal city of Marmaris, the crews tackled a trio of rough gravel tests today, beginning with the Içmeler stage close to the service park, before heading north to the Çetibeli and Ula tests.
Sixth overnight, Lappi was second quickest in the morning’s first stage as Toyota’s Jari-Matti Latvala set the pace by 5.3 seconds to take the lead. But with Latvala being “too cautious” on Çetibeli – the rally’s longest stage with 38.15 kilometres – Lappi seized the opportunity to move into the lead by taking a stage win. He was only fifth quickest on SS4, but still extended his advantage over his closest rival Mikkelsen.
Having been 23.4s slower in SS3 than Lappi, Latvala dropped down to fifth overall but fought back with another fastest time in SS4. This put him back up to third, four seconds behind Mikkelsen.
Sébastien Ogier ended the morning’s first stage with a flat tyre but moved up from seventh to third on the following stage. The Citroën driver is now just 2.1s behind Latvala. M-Sport Ford driver Teemu Suninen is only 1.5s further back after a consistent morning.
As championship leader, Ott Tänak had the disadvantage of running first on the road on the loose gravel stages but holds sixth for Toyota, one place ahead of his nearest title rival, Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville. Kris Meeke is eighth in the other Toyota on his first experience of these stages.
Like Meeke, Dani Sordo did not compete in last year’s inaugural Marmaris-based event and picked up a puncture on SS2, which left the Hyundai driver ninth at the end of the morning. Pontus Tidemand, driving for M-Sport for the first time since February’s Rally Sweden, had similar misfortune and is 10th.
FIA WRC 2 Pro class leader Kalle Rovanperä had an eventful morning, rolling his Škoda R5 on an asphalt stretch of SS2, after being distracted by a puncture. Two other punctures on SS3 ultimately forced him to retire with a lack of spare tyres. Team-mate Jan Kopecký leads the class in 12th overall behind the FIA WRC 2 leader Kajetan Kajetanowicz.