SS3: Çetibeli 1, 38.15km
The rally’s longest stage is also one of the most difficult. It’s rough and tough with both fast and slow sections. Add in plenty of rocks lining the road and there’s a good chance some drivers won’t make it out intact. There are so many changes between flowing wide roads and twisty rough tracks that it is impossible to remember them all and accurate pace notes are essential.
SS4: Ula 1, 16.57km
Another test that begins with twists and turns on roads that alternate between rough and smooth. A couple of small crests hide corners immediately afterwards that could pose problems. The road narrows at 7km ahead of a twisty new section which contains plenty of long corners. It dives into the trees for the final third, before dropping quickly to the finish.
The Citroën C3 pilot charged to the front after a dominant victory in the 38.15km Çetibeli special stage. He extended his advantage over Andreas Mikkelsen’s Hyundai i20 to 9.0sec in the following Ula test.
Lappi benefited from cleaner roads and better grip further down the start order and eased clear of his Norwegian rival, who struggled for traction in Ula.
“We’ve stayed out of trouble and had no big dramas. The car is working well. In the last one I was a bit too slow but it’s better to be safe,” explained Lappi.
Mikkelsen held second all morning through the rocky mountain stages but the Norwegian rued his tyre choice in Ula. “I was on full hards but I should have used mediums in there. It was a good stage, just no traction,” he said.
Jari-Matti Latvala sandwiched fellow Finn Lappi with two stage wins in his Toyota Yaris to hold third, 4.0sec behind Mikkelsen. Only an over-cautious drive through Çetibeli, in which he dropped more than 20sec to his countryman, prevented him from leading.
“I took it too carefully. I was expecting so many loose rocks and I wanted to get through safely so I took it slowly. I had a bit of an attack in the next stage. I was quite angry with myself at losing time, but at least it saved our tyres to have a push in the next one!” he said.
World champion Sébastien Ogier recovered from his early puncture to climb to fourth in his C3, 2.1sec behind Latvala and 1.5sec clear of another Finn, Teemu Suninen.
Championship leader Ott Tänak completed the top six in his Yaris, 21.6sec off the lead. He struggled for grip on the loose roads and was the only driver not to take two spare tyres.
“I believe we made the best tyre choice possible. The risk for one spare wasn’t so high as we were opening the road. Conditions weren’t so bad yet but in the second loop it will be very different,” said the Estonian.
Thierry Neuville was seventh and frustrated with his ‘very bad morning’. The Belgian complained that his i20 was too tail-happy when he tried to push hard, but ended the morning with second fastest in Ula.
Kris Meeke and opening stage puncture victims Dani Sordo and Pontus Tidemand completed the leaderboard.