Ogier storms back into title contention with victory in Rally Turkey

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Citroën's Sébastien Ogier managed to throw the World Rally Championship title race wide open again after claiming a priceless maiden victory in Rally Turkey on Sunday.

Needing to secure maximum points to realistically continue his challenge for a seventh successive world title, the Frenchman benefited from the electrical misfortune that plagued series leader Ott Tänak and an accident that cost Thierry Neuville valuable minutes on Saturday.

By picking up an additional three bonus points on the final Power Stage, Ogier now heads to the remaining three rounds of this year’s championship 17 points behind the leading Estonian after starting the weekend 40 adrift.

Esapekka Lappi took the fight to his triumphant team-mate from the opening gravel stage. The Finn led from stages three to 11, secured three stage wins and, despite an overshoot and a spin, delivered an impressive performance to give the French manufacturer a first one-two finish since Kris Meeke and Mads Østberg prevailed in Argentina in 2015 with a pair of DS3 WRCs.

The 34.7-second win was a 47th career WRC success for Ogier and a first since Mexico in early March this year.

The delighted Frenchman said: “This was the plan for the weekend. It was really needed. It was our only chance to get back in the championship. It was very rough here. Some places it was a bit of a lottery. We had all the bad luck in Germany. I am happy for the team. Good motivation. It has been good this weekend, but we still have a lot of things to do for the rest of the season.”

The final morning developed into a procession with the three title contenders conserving their tyres for a final Power Stage push.

Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team’s Andreas Mikkelsen delivered vital points for the Korean manufacturer with third overall. The Norwegian claimed three stage wins in his i20 and was easily the class of the rest of the field behind the Citroën duo.

M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s Teemu Suninen’s challenge for the podium fizzled out on the final morning, but the Finn was able to deliver fourth place in Turkey for a second successive year.

Fifth overall for Spaniard Dani Sordo handed Hyundai crucial points for the Manufacturers’ Championship and enabled the team to move 19 clear of the Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team. The Toyotas of both Jari-Matti Latvala and Kris Meeke reached the finish in sixth and seventh overall. Latvala recorded three stage wins and Meeke one.

Thierry Neuville conserved his tyres on the final morning to challenge for the Power Stage win and the Belgian collected four bonus points to add to his eighth overall, an accident on Saturday morning potentially wrecking his title dream for another season. 

M-Sport Ford’s Pontus Tidemand delivered a measured drive to ninth place in the second of the works Fords and WRC leader Ott Tänak was last of the factory team drivers after his electrical woes on Saturday.

The Estonian opted to take no spare wheel in his Yaris for a flat out push on the Power Stage and he at least salvaged a maximum five bonus points from a train-wreck of a weekend as far as his title aspirations were concerned.

England’s Gus Greensmith returned to the WRC 2 Pro section after recent forays in an M-Sport Ford Fiesta WRC and repaid the team’s loyalty with maximum points in his category and 10th overall, despite an accident after the flying finish of SS16 that left the Ford looking decidedly worse for wear at the finish.

Both the works Škodas of Jan Kopecký and Kalle Rovanperä suffered a series of punctures during the weekend and had to settle for second and third in WRC 2 Pro, the former finishing as runner-up in 11th overall - 29.4 seconds behind Greensmiith - after leading the category for long periods.

Poland’s Kajetan Kajetanowicz made a late switch from a Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 to a Škoda Fabia R5 and showed a clean pair of heels to his WRC 2 rivals.

A fine drive was rewarded with 12th overall, although he suffered a late front left drive shaft breakage on the penultimate test and lost two places in the overall rankings to his WRC 2 Pro rivals. His consolation was the joint lead in the 2019 WRC 2 Championship.

Behind Kajetanowicz in WRC 2, Bolivian driver Marco Bulacia and Italy’s Fabio Andolfi rounded off the top three places.