The problems that cost Sébastien Ogier over 25 seconds on the previous stage of Rally Turkey didn’t hold him back on Datça, as he surged back into second place on Saturday afternoon’s second stage.
Ogier confirmed to co-driver turned WRC stage-end reporter Seb Marshall that he had a hydraulic issue with his Toyota Yaris WRC, which had an adverse effect on his gearbox and was still affecting him in SS7. He slipped from the rally lead to third place as a result.
A fix on the road section between SS6 and SS7 was a successful part-time solution, as the points leader blasted back past his team-mate Elfyn Evans with the second fastest time.
However the issue is still lingering, even if the time doesn’t suggest it: “Shifting problem and I still have it,” Ogier said when asked after SS7 what the problem was.
Neuville beating Ogier on that stage by 0.2s, with his lead now sitting at a handsome 30.1s.
“I managed quite well in this one,” Neuville said. “I kept the car in the clean lines, I enjoyed that one.”
Evans’ pace meanwhile was relaxed as he admitted he was trying to conserve the car and the tires a little more, but dropping 11.3s to Ogier in a short stage was far from ideal. He’s now 3.2s behind his team-mate in third and coming under pressure from Sébastien Loeb’s Hyundai which is just 0.8s behind after going 7.6s quicker on the stage.
Teemu Suninen’s pace dropped on Datça relative to his M-Sport team-mate Esapekka Lappi, but only just. Ultimately it meant little however such is the gap between them in sixth and seventh.
Suninen’s front splitter was slightly disarranged on the previous test and he dropped 0.2s to Lappi, but that wasn’t what wound the Finn up.
“S***,” Suninen said when asked how his stage was. “It was so dusty I couldn’t see anything, I was missing a few corners it was so dusty inside the car. Really bad.”
Fifth placed Kalle Rovanperä fell back towards Suninen after his puncture on the previous stage but only nicked 0.9s from him on SS7 – less than he had been doing throughout the rest of the rally. But the Finn had a theory as to why.
“Everything is OK but it’s really rutted the stage and it’s smaller gaps now, everybody can go in the ruts in the same speed,” Rovanperä explained.
Eighth placed Gus Greensmith’s Ford Fiesta WRC was missing a chunk of rear-right bodywork, a legacy of a puncture of his own on the previous test, but it didn’t seem to affect him as he extended his gap over 2C Competition-run Hyundai driver Pierre-Louis Loubet to precisely one minute.
“It’s been a better afternoon, it’s a shame about the puncture on the previous one because we’ve had to use one of the front [tires] on the rear so the balance is out,” said Greensmith.
Kajetan Kajetanowicz is in 10th in his Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo, heading WRC3 rival Marco Bulacia by 52.5s.
WRC2 is led by Pontus Tidemand after former leader Adrien Fourmaux picked up a rear-left puncture earlier in the day.
1 Neuville (Hyundai) 6m52.7s
2 Ogier (Toyota) +0.2s
3 Loeb (Hyundai) +3.9s
4 Rovanperä (Toyota) +7.7s
5 Lappi (M-Sport Ford) +8.4s
6 Suninen (M-Sport Ford) +8.6s
Leading positions after SS7
1 Neuville (Hyundai) 1h29m28.3s
2 Ogier (Toyota) +30.1s
3 Evans (Toyota) +33.3s
4 Loeb (Hyundai) +34.1s
5 Rovanperä (Toyota) +1m07.7s
6 Suninen (M-Sport Ford) +1m23.0s
7 Lappi (M-Sport Ford) +2m20.4s
8 Greensmith (M-Sport Ford) +3m00.0s
9 Loubet (2C Competition Hyundai) +4m00.0s
10 Kajetanowicz (Škoda) +5m37.5s