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WRC - Neuville sets the pace after dramatic day on Rally Turkey


2020 Rally Turkey - Saturday afternoon

2020 WRC - Rally Turkey - T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul (Lenormand / DPPI)

Hyundai driver Thierry Neuville takes a 33.2-second lead over a tying six-time World Champion Sébastien Ogier and nine-time World Champion Sébastien Loeb into the final four special stages of Rally Turkey on Sunday.
Three consecutive fastest times from Saturday’s six punishing gravel stages, alongside a puncture and minor hydraulic issue for his Toyota rival Ogier, have given the Belgian driver the perfect foundations on which to push for a maiden success on Turkey’s Turquoise Coast.
With Ott Tänak out of the equation with massive time penalties caused as a result of a third-stage steering failure on his Hyundai i20 WRC in the morning loop, Neuville and Toyota’s Elfyn Evans both have ideal opportunities to further stake their claims on a maiden world title and pile the pressure on the series-leading Ogier. The defending World Champion from Estonia is now relying on trying to score a maximum five points on Sunday’s Power Stage finale.

Ogier and Neuville traded stage times on the morning’s loop and a mere 1.6 seconds separated them at the midday service halt before the Frenchman sustained his flat tyre and slipped to third. The Toyota Yaris driver moved back up to second on the penultimate stage, only to see Sébastien Loeb win the last timed test and match his overall time to the fraction of a second.
Evans couldn’t quite find the pace to match his team-mate or his Belgian rival during the morning but is still in the heat of battle heading into a final morning showdown, despite slipping down to fourth at the night halt.
Loeb lost his overnight lead on the first stage of the day, largely as a result of a poor tyre choice and the furious pace of his rivals, and he became embroiled in a tussle with Kalle Rovanperä for fourth. But a puncture for the fifth-placed Finn in SS6 eased the pressure on the veteran and he pressured Ogier and Evans to the finish, duly overcoming excessive tyre wear to win the final stage.
Neither of the Finnish M-Sport drivers could break the dominance at the top of the leader board, despite the team mechanics working hard to optimise the best settings for the Ford Fiestas. Teemu Suninen and Esapekka Lappi reached the night halt in sixth and seventh.
Gus Greensmith guided the third of the M-Sport cars to eighth and Pierre-Louis Loubet continued his rapid learning curve in a Hyundai i20 to hold ninth, the Frenchman’s stage times improving as the afternoon progressed, although he acknowledged he has experienced “the toughest day in his career”.
Poland’s 10th-placed Kajetan Kajetanowicz displaced Marco Bulacia on the morning’s opener to take control of FIA WRC3 and he overhauled FIA WRC2 leader Adrien Fourmaux before the midday break. The latter stopped for two minutes in stage six after a flat tyre and gifted his category advantage to Sweden’s Pontus Tidemand.

2020 Rally Turkey – Unofficial Results after Section 3:

1. Thierry Neuville (BEL) / Nicolas Gilsoul (BEL) Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC1 hr 36min 38.6sec
2. Sébastien Loeb (FRA) / Daniel Elena (MNC)Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC1 hr 37min 11.8sec
3. Sébastien Ogier (FRA) / Julien Ingrassia (FRA) Toyota Yaris WRC1 hr 37min 11.8sec
4. Elfyn Evans (GBR) / Scott Martin (GBR)Toyota Yaris WRC1 hr 37min 39.4sec
5. Kalle Rovanperä (FIN) / Jonne Halttunen (FIN) Toyota Yaris WRC1 hr 37min 57.4sec
6. Teemu Suninen (FIN) / Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN) Ford Fiesta WRC1 hr 38min 13.6sec
7. Esapekka Lappi (FIN) / Janne Ferm (FIN) Ford Fiesta WRC1 hr 39min 06.6sec
8. Gus Greensmith (GBR) / Elliott Edmondson (GBR)  Ford Fiesta WRC1 hr 39min 54.0sec
9. Pierre-Louis Loubet (FRA) / Vincent Landais (FRA)Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC1 hr 40min 59.0sec
10. K. Kajetanowicz (POL) / M. Szczepaniak (POL) - WRC3Škoda Fabia Evo1 hr 42min 50.1sec