STRONG PACE GOES UNREWARDED
After grabbing the overall lead with a superb win on the opening speed test – the weekend's hardest stage – Craig Breen and Scott Martin then unfortunately fell back to eighth place, following two punctures inflicted by the sharp stones on the rough Turkish stages. Sadly, the repeated impact of these stones also led to the retirement of Mads Østberg and Torstein Eriksen from fifth overall on SS6 with a broken suspension arm. They had been running in a very strong third place for most of the day. Meanwhile, a technical problem meant that Khalid Al Qassimi and Chris Patterson had to retire for the day.
At over thirty-eight kilometres in length, featuring various changes in pace and twisty, technical sections and largely contested on rough, rock-strewn roads, Çetibeli – the opening stage of the day and also the longest of the weekend – clearly presented a formidable, daunting test for the crews. And yet this was the stage on which Craig Breen decided to show his speed, and that of the C3 WRC, whilst also demonstrating his ability to take effective pace notes in just two runs in recce. The Irishman produced a dominant performance to win the stage and take the overall lead for the first time in his career in the WRC. He then set further good times, whilst looking after his car on the rough Turkish roads, to end the morning loop in second place, just 6.3s behind the leader. However, the second loop would see the Irishman's luck escape him once again: two successive punctures (SS5 and SS6) left him languishing in eighth position, 50.1s off the pace. A gap that still leaves him with some hopes of a decent result, given the likelihood of further drama on the stages over the weekend.
Mads Østberg was in no mood to be left out. He finished second on SS3, just 2.1s off the pace (over 21.75km), on his way to ending the morning in third overall. He was fighting hard to hold onto his podium place when he suffered both a slow puncture and delamination of one of his tyres (SS5). He was still running in fifth when the constant impacts from the ground irreversibly damaged a suspension arm, forcing him to retire for the day. He will rejoin under Rally 2 rules tomorrow.
Khalid Al Qassimi will also be back in action on Saturday under Rally 2 rules after a technical issue brought his challenge to a halt. Having made a cautious start as he got to grips with the local difficulties, he reported that his feeling in car was improving as he progressed through the stages.
With a competitive distance of 130.62 kilometres (over six speed tests) and two runs on the long Yesibelde stage (34.24km), day two promises to provide the crews and their cars with another very serious examination…
WHAT THEY SAID
Pierre Budar, Citroën Racing Team Principal
"We really don't seem to have much luck on Friday afternoons. It's particularly disappointing in that both Craig and Mads were again showcasing their skills and the qualities of the C3 WRC, on what are some of the most difficult stages to get to grips with, without prior knowledge of the roads."
"It’s very frustrating to have picked up two punctures when I was really taking care to drive in the middle of the road. But the race isn't over yet. Neuville and Ogier showed today that it's possible to be quick even if you're one of the first on the road, so tomorrow I'm going to try and produce the same kind of pace we had today."
"It’s a shame to finish the day like this, a day that had started so well. We were right in the mix for the podium, whilst attempting to look after the car. Unfortunately, these really rough roads got the better of a suspension arm on our C3 WRC."
Khalid Al Qassimi
"I was getting my bearings with these stages and with the car, hoping to gradually up my pace, when our day was brought to a premature end with a technical issue. With times posted and the pace shown by the other guys this morning, the team certainly deserved a better outcome."
STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1
- Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 1:52:28.2
- Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 0.3
- Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 2.6
- Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 16.3
- Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 31.9
- Paddon / Marshall (Hyundai i20 WRC) +35.1
- Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 36.8
- Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) + 50.1
- Suninen / Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 1:02.9