Sébastien Ogier is set to lose his lead of the World Rally Championship after retiring from the penultimate stage of Rally Turkey with an engine issue.
Ogier’s Toyota Yaris WRC began to slow exiting a left-hander on the notorious 23.7-mile Çetibeli test, which claimed two drivers and caused punctures for five others on the first pass earlier on Sunday morning.
He shouted to co-driver Julien Ingrassia “look at the alarm, the engine alarm” as the Yaris began to lose power.
Ogier coasted on for a few more miles but it soon became clear that he could go no further as smoke and a spit of flame started to seep from under the hood.
The six-time world champion was third heading into the stage, behind title rivals Elfyn Evans and Thierry Neuville.
Evans leads the rally as it stands, and is therefore set to gain at least 25 points more than Ogier – with the opportunity to add more on the powerstage.
Ogier began Rally Turkey with a nine-point advantage over his team-mate in the standings.
Team-mate Evans did suffer a scare of his own on the penultimate stage though, worried that he might have a rear puncture early on. But a reassuring “I think we’re OK” from co-driver Scott Martin confirmed nothing was amiss and he pressed on.
Despite losing 5.3 seconds to Neuville, who was fastest on the stage, Evans still has an advantage of 36.9s with just the short 3.86-mile Marmaris powerstage left to run.
“It’s a shame for him [Ogier],” said Evans. “It was rough in there to be honest. I tried to find the right balance.”
Neuville added: “I tried to manage my tires a bit too much in the middle section.
“Obviously Elfyn had a trouble-free run, whoever has the least trouble will win the rally.”
Sébastien Loeb has inherited third place after Ogier’s demise, but is now almost a minute adrift of the lead.
“We finished without puncture, that was the goal, so I’m happy with this stage,” admitted Loeb, who was third-fastest on the stage.
Kalle Rovanperä also kept it steady, remarking: “I think I’ve never been driving a rally car this slow.” He is now up to fourth overall courtesy of team-mate Ogier’s retirement, 1m40.4s behind Loeb.
Gus Greensmith is on course for a career-best finish of fifth ahead of Esapekka Lappi, who is 37s behind his M-Sport team-mate but minutes clear of Kajetan Kajetanowicz – now seventh in his Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo and leading the WRC3 class.
Ott Tänak is out of the fight but still had a small impact. He hung back on a road section and started the stage after Ogier instead of first, ahead of his two team-mates Neuville and Loeb.
This moved the Toyotas of Evans and Ogier up one spot higher on the road than they should have been, which is theoretically a disadvantage.
When Tänak did start the stage, he almost immediately brought his Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC to a stop to let Loeb and Neuville run ahead.
Crucially for his own performance though, the intercom that plagued him on Sunday’s first loop has been rectified so he can push for bonus powerstage points. This could be more important now Ogier will score zero from Turkey.
1 Neuville (Hyundai) 27m46s
2 Evans (Toyota) +5.3s
3 Loeb (Hyundai) +9.4s
4 Rovanperä (Toyota) +29.7s
5 Lappi (M-Sport Ford) +59s
6 Greensmith (M-Sport Ford) +1m06.3s
Leading positions after SS11
1 Evans (Toyota) 2h38m40.6s
2 Neuville (Hyundai) +36.9s
3 Loeb (Hyundai) +55.5s
4 Rovanperä (Toyota) +2m35.9s
5 Greensmith (M-Sport Ford) +4m01.2s
6 Lappi (M-Sport Ford) +4m38.2s