Britain’s Elfyn Evans won Rally Turkey and soared back to the top of the World Rally Championship drivers’ standings after a day of high drama in the hillsides around Marmaris.
The Welshman took a cautious approach throughout the most attritional event on the WRC calendar, and his reward was a third career WRC victory and the second of his first season driving for Toyota.
The final day began with Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville and Toyota’s Sebastien Ogier picking up the cudgels to continue their furious battle at the top of the order.
Both men picked up punctures on the first stage of the day, the notorious 38 km Cetibeli test, as did the third-place man overnight, Hyundai’s veteran Sebastien Loeb.
Evans’ game of patience paid dividends as he emerged from the stage with a mighty 47 second advantage over the erstwhile leaders.
Neuville drove flat-out on the first run through Marmaris to leap-frog Ogier into second and attempt to close the gap in case Evans suffered the slightest delay.
On the second pass through Cetibeli, Ogier’s Yaris WRC finally began emitting smoke and the six-time champion retired.
The Frenchman’s misfortune saw his former nemesis, nine-time world champion Loeb, elevated back into the podium places in the second Hyundai.
Team tactics were hard to manage amid such dramatic changes in fortune but Hyundai played its joker in the form of Ott Tanak, who had restarted out of the points battle after dropping out with steering failure on Saturday morning.
The Estonian took a road penalty to push Ogier in front of him and slotted into place in front of his two team-mates on the penultimate stage.
After launching away from the start with purpose, Tanak then parked up and allowed both Neuville and Loeb through in front of him to minimise the number of rocks pulled up in their path before taking a gentle trundle through to the end.
Tanak’s focus was squarely on the five bonus points available for winning the final Power Stage on the second run through Marmaris.
Laden with only one spare tyre and running the softest rubber that he dared, Tanak set a blistering time of 4m20.8s as his best shot at claiming the five bonus points that might help to retain his 2019 drivers’ crown.
Both Loeb and Kalle Rovanpera in the second surviving Toyota were focused on bringing home their hard-earned manufacturers’ points and so it was left to Neuville to throw his car through Marmaris with abandon, shading Tanak by 0.4s to maximise his bonus points.
Evans took a much gentler approach and settled for two bonus points on top of his victory.
“We really tried to drive well and stay in the middle of the road and, you know, that did reward us,” Evans said.
“I’m also aware that there needs to be a bit of luck that needs to go your way, and I never like to inherit positions in that way.
“But this is the nature of Rally Turkey especially, and we knew this coming into the weekend.
“It’s not the sweetest victory knowing you’ve perhaps been a bit more conservative, but it’s the name of the game.”
Evans now holds an 18-point advantage over Ogier with two rounds remaining in the current Covid-affected schedule.
Tanak’s Power Stage points keep him level with Rovanpera in third, while Neuville’s 23-point haul from Turkey brings him back into contention a further five points adrift. Toyota remains at the top of the manufacturers’ standings by nine points.
In the WRC2 category, points leader Mads Ostberg was absent from the cockpit and this allowed fellow WRC refugee Pontus Tidemand’s Skoda to take his second victory of the year and claim a narrow lead in the standings.
With neither Ole Christian Veiby or Nikolay Gryazin present for Hyundai, the Swede’s nearest challenger was Frenchman Adrien Fourmaux in M-Sport’s Fiesta with Eyvind Brynildsen coming home a distant third after several issues through the weekend.
In the WRC3 category, victory went to the Skoda of Kajetan Kajetanowicz, the Pole keeping in front of Bolivia’s Marco Bulacia and local hero Yagiz Avci.
WRC Rally Turkey final results
|1||RC1||Elfyn Evans, S.Martin||Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT||Toyota||2h43m02.7s|
|2||RC1||Thierry Neuville, N.Gilsoul||Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT||Hyundai||35.2s|
|3||RC1||Sebastien Loeb, D.Elena||Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT||Hyundai||59.4s|
|4||RC1||Kalle Rovanpera, J.Halttunen||Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT||Toyota||2m35.9s|
|5||RC1||Gus Greensmith, E.Edmondson||M-Sport Ford WRT||Ford||4m08.3s|
|6||RC1||Esapekka Lappi, J.Ferm||M-Sport Ford WRT||Ford||5m36.2s|
|7||RC2||Kajetan Kajetanowicz, M.Szczepaniak||Skoda||12m35.5s|
|8||RC2||Pontus Tidemand, P.Barth||Toksport WRT||Skoda||12m59.7s|
|9||RC2||Adrien Fourmaux, R.Jamoul||M-Sport Ford WRT||Ford||14m42.6s|
|10||RC2||Marco Bulacia Wilkinson, M.Der Ohannesian||Citroen||14m46.4s|
|11||RC2||Yagiz Avci, O.Vatansever||Citroen||19m51.1s|
|12||RC2||Alberto Heller, J.L.Diaz||Ford||22m03.4s|
|13||RC2||Burak Cukurova, B.Akcay||Skoda||24m47.4s|
|14||RC2||Jan Solans, M.Barreiro||Ford||31m15.5s|
|15||RC2||Emilio Fernandez, R.Garcia||Skoda||33m52.5s|
|17||RC1||Ott Tanak, M.Jarveoja||Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT||Hyundai||1h13m43.3s|
|18||RC2||Eyvind Brynildsen, I.Minor||Toksport WRT||Skoda||1h21m24.4s|
|–||RC2||Ugur Soylu, M.Koleoglu||Skoda||Mechanical|
|–||RC1||Sebastien Ogier, J.Ingrassia||Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT||Toyota||Engine|
|–||RC1||Teemu Suninen, J.Lehtinen||M-Sport Ford WRT||Ford||Suspension|
|–||RC1||Pierre-Louis Loubet, V.Landais||Hyundai 2C Competition||Hyundai||Mechanical|
|–||RC2||Sean Johnston, A.Kihurani||Sainteloc Junior Team||Citroen||Accident|
|–||RC2||Nasser Khalifa Al-Attiyah, G.Bernacchini||Ford||Accident|