World Rally Championship leader Sébastien Ogier has said Friday’s two Rally of Turkey stages will “feel like powerstages”, as the classification after those stages will be reversed to form Saturday’s road order.
The rally’s first day offers just 15.6 miles of competitive action on Friday evening, with Ogier heading into those tests first because of his status as the championship leader.
While he may potentially have to open the road on just two stages as opposed to four or five across the weekend, Ogier will still be at a disadvantage compared to those starting further back.
That’s crucial as he could therefore struggle to secure a strong position overall after Friday and thus a good road position on Saturday, as he’ll be without the usual opportunity of making back time on the repeat loop of stages when the road conditions are more stable.
Consequently, Ogier admits having such little stage mileage on Friday is “good news but it doesn’t necessarily make it easier”.
“It’s the usual loose amount, and when you open the road, it’s always challenging,” he said.
“I think globally, the conditions are not so different to what we saw last year, a bit of loose, some nice sections but some rough sections like the long one on Sunday are going to be very challenging and demanding for the cars.
“I would say the good news for us is that there are only 25 kilometers on Friday. I would say that it’s good news but it doesn’t necessarily make it easier for us because we will probably lose less time opening the road than usual, but the difficulty will be the classification and not to lose too much time, because even if we are like 10 seconds behind the quickest time on Friday night, we will still open the road on Saturday.
“That will compromise our chances a lot. Basically, these first two stages are going to feel like powerstages straight away where we’ll have to give everything and try to have a correct starting position on Saturday.”
Reigning World Rally Champion Ott Tänak will start Friday’s stages third on the road after vaulting up two spots in the standings with his Rally Estonia victory two weeks ago.
He agreed with Ogier, admitting nobody can afford to bed themselves in to Rally of Turkey despite the rough nature of the stages.
“From the beginning yes we need to try hard if you want [a] good road position for Saturday,” he told DirtFish.
“I’m sure it won’t be an easy job on Friday evening but we definitely need to try hard to give it our best shot and hopefully we will have some more cars in front of us [on the road on Saturday].”
Ogier, who heads team-mate Elfyn Evans by nine points and Tänak by 13 points in the championship, remains “pretty confident” of a strong result this weekend in Turkey, buoyed by a successful test in Greece.
“It’s always hard to know if it’s enough but we made some progress on the last test two weeks ago in Greece and it felt good in the car, so I’m excited to see what it brings,” said Ogier.
“Even if you have the best car in the world, if you are first on the road then you cannot make any time.”