Toyota Gazoo racing driver Ott Tänak emerges victorious in Turkey, making it three in a row and shooting straight to second in the championship
WRC returned to Turkey after eight long years and it was Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Estonian rally ace, Ott Tänak, who emerged victorious as mighty heroes like Thierry Neuville of Hyundai and Sebastien Ogier fell in the gravel early in this event.
The first 10 stages were full of excitement as the lead kept changing several times before Andrea Mikkelsen of Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT took it on SS4 and continued in that position for the next three stages. However, on stage seven, Mikkelsen’s teammate and championship leader, Thierry Neuville, took the lead on the last stage on Friday.
Unfortunately, Neuville’s Hyundai i20 suffered from broken suspension in the opening stage on Saturday, which forced the Belgian out. This gave Ogier the opportunity to slip into the lead on SS8. By now, Tänak, who had been out of the top five, had climbed to fourth place by the end of SS8. With Neuville out of contention, Ogier continued to lead for another stage before Mikkelsen retook the lead on SS10, with Tänak now running in second, ahead of his team-mate, Jari-Matti Latvala, who was in third place. On SS11, Ogier crashed out and Tänak slipped into the lead with Latvala just 11 seconds behind him by the end of SS11.
Hyundai had some reason to rejoice as their second driver, Hayden Paddon, managed to slip into third place and stay there right till the end. However, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT had more than one reason to celebrate as both their drivers dominated the second half of the rally with Tänak eventually winning the gravel event by an impressive 22.3 seconds.
Tänak’s win elevated him to second in the championship standings, with just 13 points separating him from Neuville. Latvala finished second, rocketing Toyota to the top of the manufacturers’ title. Ogier, who until now was the main title rival for Neuville, managed to finish 10th thanks to his team-mate, Elfyn Evans, who deliberately gave up a position to accommodate Ogier.
The championship is still open and with just three rounds to go, it will be exciting to watch a three-way battle among Toyota, Hyundai, and M-Sport Ford.
( Above) Toyota Gazoo Racing and Tänak dominate over Turkish gravel
( Belowleft) It was jubilation for Tänak and Järveoja