Içmeler 1, 24.85km
Several asphalt sections interrupt the gravel in Içmeler, which is one of the rally’s faster stages. There is a lot of gravel on the surface which will clean to expose the bedrock beneath and provide a tough test for tyres in the second pass. It is quick most of the way until the final kilometres which are twisty and uphill. The opening 5.90km are new for 2019 and feature narrow roads and hairpins.
The Finn climbed from ninth after last night’s curtain-raising special stage in the streets of Marmaris after stopping the clocks 5.3sec faster than fellow Finn Esapekka Lappi in the rough and rocky 24.85km Içmeler test.
Latvala topped the overall standings by 1.1sec from joint overnight leader Andreas Mikkelsen, but admitted his pace was a surprise.
“I didn’t expect that, I’m actually surprised we’ve set such a good time. We took it fairly slowly as the surface is broken up and the rocks are coming up,” he said.
Finns locked out the top three in the stage with Teemu Suninen tying for third fastest with Mikkelsen’s Hyundai i20, 0.4sec behind Lappi, who was also surprised by his time.
“It felt quite bad to be honest. Even though I drove badly, the time will be better because it is cleaning. It’s too soft, I can’t trust the front so we need to make the car a bit stiffer and then it will be fine,” said the Citroën C3 pilot.
Suninen set the best intermediate times in his Ford Fiesta but a mid-stage spin in a slow corner cost valuable seconds.
Championship leader Ott Tänak was fifth in the stage and the overall standings, 0.3sec ahead of Yaris team-mate Kris Meeke, whose concentration was disturbed when a puncture warning light on his dashboard flashed up just after the midpoint.
“It’s difficult – it’s slow and no grip. In the beginning the rhythm was not great but it was better in the middle. A bit so-so but we did all we could,” said Tänak, who is first in the start order and had to carve a clean line through the slippery gravel.
He lost no time but the rock-strewn roads caused punctures for Sébastien Ogier, Dani Sordo and Pontus Tidemand. Although Ogier dropped only 10sec in his C3, Sordo and Tidemand both yielded 50sec as they battled to the finish.