Tanak emerges with lead amid Turkey chaos
Ott Tanak took the Rally Turkey lead and neared a World Rally Championship win hat-trick on Saturday afternoon, boosting his title hopes as Sebastien Ogier joined Thierry Neuville in retirement.
Tanak referred to his Toyota as "undriveable" on the afternoon's opening Yesilbelde stage, but emerged from it in the lead as Ogier crashed and Andreas Mikkelsen hit mechanical trouble.
Team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala made it a Toyota one-two, and did claim back five seconds from Tanak on SS12, Datca.
But to conclude the loop Tanak edged Latvala by 5.1s on Icmeler to end the day with a 13.1s lead.
If he can secure a third WRC win in a row after Sunday's four stages, Tanak has the potential to move into second in the championship ahead of Ogier, and could reduce his gap in the standings behind current leader Neuville from 36 to as little as six.
Having lost his briefly-held lead when he broke the right-front wishbone on his M-Sport Ford and picked up a late check-in penalty during the morning, Ogier began the second loop in fourth and trailing leader Mikkelsen by 46.1s.
He had pulled back over 30s on SS11 before he slid off the road and got stuck, forcing Ogier to retire from a rally where title rival Neuville's earlier suspension breakage could have put him into the championship lead.
Hyundai driver Hayden Paddon now rounds out the top three, taking a cautious and patient approach to his almost uneventful day while those around him fell by the wayside.
That included his team-mate Mikkelsen, who led into SS11 before his car was reduced to rear-wheel drive only by transmission problems. Mikkelsen continued and now lies fifth behind Teemu Suninen.
With both of his M-Sport team-mates have suffered issues, Suninen approached the afternoon with similar caution to Paddon and it paid off with fourth overall at day's end.
He has been working on improving his driving through the weekend and was happier with his Saturday form.
Henning Solberg, competing in an R5 car this weekend, is a brilliant sixth ahead of Rally2 restarter Elfyn Evans.
Evans had to work on his own car in the earlier midday service, changing a wishbone himself as M-Sport deployed maximum mechanics to his title-contending team-mate Ogier's repairs.
"I obviously put it on right as it would have fallen off by now," Evans joked.
On his WRC2 debut, Skoda privateer Chris Ingram had led the works Fabias of Jan Kopecky and Pontus Tidemand, but fell back on the last stage of the loop.
Kopecky could take the title if he can win the class this weekend.
Craig Breen's Citroen was lost on the road section after SS11, the C3 WRC engulfed in flames after the Irishman and co-driver Scott Martin had stopped multiple times in the stage with smoke consuming the car's cockpit. It became an inferno and burned to a crisp.
Breen and Martin escaped unhurt from a rally they had led on Friday and were still running sixth in.
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Leading positions after SS13