(Reuters) – Hyundai’s championship leader Thierry Neuville led reigning champion Sebastien Ogier by three tenths of a second after a dramatic first full day’s action in the Rally of Turkey on Friday.
M-Sport Ford’s five times world champion Ogier went from seventh to second in the fifth stage on the rough and rocky roads near Marmaris, leapfrogging his Belgian rival in the process.
Neuville hit back immediately with victory in the next Ula Two stage, putting him second behind Norwegian team mate Andreas Mikkelsen, and then took the lead after the day’s closing Cicekli stage.
Mikkelsen dropped back to third place, with the top three separated by a mere 2.6 seconds, after being slowed by a right rear puncture and worn tyres.
“The conditions we have faced today have been really tough,” said Neuville, who was first through the dusty stages in the morning.
“These roads have been a completely different challenge to any other we’ve faced this season, which keeps things fresh. We had to take things a bit more carefully this afternoon,” he added.
“We lost a lot of time in SS5 and had to take some risks in the subsequent stage as a result. We then lost several seconds in the final stage, needing to reverse after making a mistake. It was a reminder that this rally could be won or lost on the smallest of things.”
Neuville leads the championship by 23 points from Frenchman Ogier.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis)