Hyundai drivers Norway’s Andreas Mikkelsen and the Belgian Thierry Neuville finished in a tie as the World Rally series opened with a special in searing heat in Turkey on Thursday.
Estonia’s Ott Tanak in a Toyota was seventh in the day’s only stage. He entered the rally 33 points clear of Neuville at the top of the standings after four wins in the past five.
Turkey is the tenth of 14 rallies and is contested on twisty and unforgiving rock-strewn mountain roads in the deep south of the nation.
Friday’s racing represents roughly half of the whole rally as the drivers rampage across two circuits of three specials of 159.14km
“It’s the most difficult section, it’ll be a huge day,” said world champion Sebastian Ogier, who is third in the driver championships.
“It’s the toughest section too,” said the seven-time champion.
The 11th leg of the year kicked off with a curtain raising town-centre sprint test on the streets of Marmaris and will likely have little effect on the overall outcome.
1. Andreas Mikkelsen-Anders Jaeger (NOR/Hyundai i20) 2min 02.6sec
2. Thierry Neuville-Nicolas Gilsoul (BEL/Hyundai i20) at 0.0
3. Pontus Tidemand-Ola Floene (SUE-NOR/Ford Fiesta) 1.6sec
4. Sebastien Ogier-Julien Ingrassia (FRA/Citroen C3) 1.7
5. Kris Meeke-Sebastian Marshall (GBR/Toyota Yaris) 2.0
6. Esapekka Lappi-Janne Ferm (FIN/Citroen C3) 3.9
7. Ott Tanak-Martin Jarveoja (EST/Toyota Yaris) 4.2
8. Kalle Rovanpera-Jonne Halttunen (FIN/Skoda Fabia R5) 4.3 (1st in WRC2 Pro class)
9. Jari-Matti Latvala-Mikka Anttila (FIN/Toyota Yaris) 4.6
10. Dani Sordo-Carlos Del Barrio (ESP/Hyundai i20) 4.9