Welshman benefits from rival Ogier retirement as Loeb finishes in third.
Elfyn Evans won a mad Rally Turkey on Sunday afternoon to reclaim the lead of the FIA World Rally Championship.
He soared from fourth to grab his second victory of the season in a Toyota Yaris by 35.2sec after a remarkable final morning when punishing rocky roads caused chaos for his rivals. He leads the standings by 18 points with two rounds remaining.
The Welshman was the only front-running driver to escape from the clutches of the fearsome 38.15km Çetibeli speed test with his car intact early this morning as his adversaries were laid low by punctures and mechanical problems.
"It has been a tough weekend," said Evans. "We tried to drive well and stay in the middle of the road and that rewarded us. I'm well aware that a bit of luck needs to go your way and I never like to inherit positions from others in that way, but that's the nature of Rally Turkey."
Overnight leader Thierry Neuville finished second in a Hyundai i20, 24.2sec clear of team-mate Sébastien Loeb. The hopes of both ended when they punctured in Çetibeli, Neuville conceding 1min 45sec and Loeb 1min 20sec.
Belgian Neuville was arguably the fastest driver of the weekend, winning seven of the 12 special stages and leading on two separate occasions.
Championship leader Sébastien Ogier dropped 1min 15sec with a similar problem. He remained on course for a podium until he stopped in the second pass through the stage with smoke pouring from the engine bay of his Yaris.
Kalle Rovanperä finished fourth, more than 90sec adrift of Loeb after also falling victim to the Çetibeli curse. The points garnered by Evans and the teenage Finn enabled Toyota Gazoo Racing to extend its manufacturers' championship lead to nine points over Hyundai Motorsport.
Gus Greensmith was a career-best fifth in a Ford Fiesta after escaping the carnage. He headed team-mate Esapekka Lappi who limped through the final stage with a broken damper, having also joined the puncture victims earlier.
Teemu Suninen retired his Fiesta in Çetibeli with broken suspension, while Pierre-Louis Loubet stopped in the same test with engine troubles.
Toyota Team Rally Roundup
The 38.15-kilometre Çetibeli stage was the first of two tests that would be run twice on the final day of the event, and that initial run over the rocky terrain proved to be highly eventful with a number of drivers having to stop and change wheels, including Toyota pair Sébastien Ogier and Kalle Rovanperä.
Evans on the other hand made it through the stage without trouble, setting the fastest time to surge into a 46.9-second lead. From there, he and co-driver Scott Martin were able to safely complete the remaining stages and secure a victory that moves Evans to the top of the drivers’ championship.
A fast wheel change from Ogier and co-driver Julien Ingrassia allowed them to finish the day’s opening stage holding onto second place overall. Unfortunately, they had to retire from the rally on SS11 due to an engine-related issue. Ogier is now second in the drivers’ standings, 18 points behind Evans.
Rovanperä’s impressive rookie season alongside his co-driver Jonne Halttunen continued with a fourth-place finish: the 19-year-old’s fifth top-five result from as many events at rallying’s highest level. His result helps Toyota increase its lead in the manufacturers’ championship to nine points.
Tommi Mäkinen (Team Principal)
“It’s an incredible feeling to win after such a difficult rally. Elfyn was absolutely brilliant with no mistakes whatsoever and he managed to get through today’s stages without any problems. Now he’s leading the championship which is a great situation for him and the manufacturers’ championship is also looking good for us. Another great drive from Kalle with his lack of experience really helped us with that. We are very, very sorry for what happened to Seb today. We need to investigate why there was some trouble relating to the engine. He was not the lucky man this weekend – he could still have been fighting for the victory this morning.”
Sébastien Ogier (Driver car 17)
“The first stage this morning was really difficult as we expected. There were rocks and holes everywhere, a lot of dust so we couldn’t really see where we were going, and we had to stop and change a wheel. Then in the second pass I don’t know what happened exactly, but we started to lose power and unfortunately we couldn’t go much further. We know that this rally is a bit of a lottery and we definitely didn’t pick the right numbers this weekend. There was nothing I could do about that and the only thing we can do is look forward. Sometimes it’s like this in motorsport and we have to accept that luck was not with us and move on to the next one.”
Elfyn Evans (Driver car 33)
“It obviously feels good to come away from a really tough rally with a win. We showed some good pace from the start. We were perhaps not the fastest driver out there this weekend, but we were there or thereabouts and we knew that today was going to be critical. We really tried to focus on keeping it in the middle of the road and that paid off for us, and I’m happy to come away with all those points. It’s probably not the sweetest victory because we know that others had some bad luck, but this is the nature of Rally Turkey and we knew this coming into the weekend. It’s a great result towards the championship and a good position to be in.”
Kalle Rovanperä (Driver car 69)
“This is another good result for us. It’s nice to keep finishing these rallies with good points. I have to say a really big thank you to the team, because they are doing a very big job in a rally like this to keep the car in a good condition as it’s really rough for the car. The long stage today was tough as we expected. On the second pass we were really careful to save the car and the tyres. Then in the Power Stage we couldn’t push too much because we wanted to get the points for the manufacturers’ championship, but we still managed to set a nice time and get some more points.”
FINAL CLASSIFICATION, RALLY TURKEY
1 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2h43m02.7s
2 Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +35.2s
3 Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +59.4s
4 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2m35.9s
5 Gus Greensmith/Elliott Edmondson (Ford Fiesta WRC) +4m08.3s
6 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Ford Fiesta WRC) +5m36.2s
7 Kajetan Kajetanowicz/Maciek Szczepaniak (Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo) +12m35.5s
8 Pontus Tidemand/Patrik Barth (Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo) +12m59.7s
9 Adrien Fourmaux/Renaud Jamoul (Ford Fiesta Rally2) +14m42.6s
10 Marco Bulacia/Marcelo Der Ohannesian (Citroën C3 R5) +14m46.4s
Retired Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Toyota Yaris WRC)
Now running on October 8-11 rather than its usual date in June, Rally Italia Sardegna features fast and narrow stages coated with fine and sandy gravel, which is swept away by each passing car to leave rockier and rutted roads. Exposed rocks, as well as trees at the side of the road, can catch out the unwary.