Estonian rally driver Ott Tänak has not gotten off to a flying start at Rally Turkey, a race which he won last year in the event's return to the full WRC calendar after several years' break, but it is early days yet. Tänak lies at the top of the WRC drivers' table going into the weekend, with four races remaining, including Turkey.
The super special stage which kicked off the event Thursday evening in Marmaris, on the Turkish Riviera in the southwest of that country, was dominated by teammates Andreas Mikkelsen of Norway (Hyundai) and last year's runner up Thierry Neuville (Belgium, Hyundai), who finished in joint first place with a time of 2min 02.6sec . Pontus Tideman (Sweden, Ford Fiesta) was third and reigning multiple champion Sébastien Ogier (Citroën, France) came fourth. Ott Tänak and his co-driver Martin Järveoja came seventh in the Hyundai, with a time of 2min 06.8sec.
The super special stage followed the "shakedown" event on Thursday morning, which was won by Tänak's teammate at Toyota Gazoo Racing, Kris Meeke, of Northern Ireland, in 3min 25.3sec on the 4.7km stage. Tänak himself finished fourth after acting as "road sweeper" with a time of 3 min 31.1sec.
The starting order for Friday's six stages is the same as the current championship table order, thus Tänak goes off first, followed by Neuville, Ogier, Meeke, Mikkelsen and Jari-Matti Latvala (Finland, Toyota).
Saturday brings six more stages, with the final four stages taking place on Sunday.
Tänak, 31, from Saaremaa, is on 205 points at the top of the table, 33 points clear of second-placed man Thierry Neuville and 40 points clear of Sébastien Ogier in third place. One of these three has to be the 2019 WRC champion since fourth-placer Kris Meeke is on 80 points, making victory a mathematical impossibility.
Maximum points at any WRC rally stand at 25 plus five bonus points. Tänak has maxed-out three times this season, in Sweden, Chile and Finland, and also won in Portugal and the last race in Germany.
Editor: Andrew Whyte