FIA World Rally Championship

PREVIEW: 2020 FIA World Rally Championship – Rally Turkey: Can Ogier Repeat Last Season’s Win?

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Photo Credit: Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool

The 2020 FIA World Rally Championship continues this weekend with Rally Turkey playing host to the fifth round of the revised season.

Two weeks ago saw the season resume in Estonia following the COVID-19 pandemic and it was home hero Ott Tänak who secured a dominant first victory in Hyundai colours on the event.

The defending world champion led home a one-two finish for the Korean manufacturer with Craig Breen taking a fine second place and in turn his best finish for the team also.

Rally Turkey has a total of 12 stages planned across three days this weekend starting with a pair of Friday evening tests near the rally’s starting location of Marmaris, before a busy day on Saturday, as like with last year, totals over 100km of stage action.

Sunday is also another condensed day due to the coronavirus restrictions, with the longest stage of the rally, the Çetibeli 38km test, opening the day before a short 6km stage again near Marmaris.

Both are then repeated to complete the event, with the latter also being the Power Stage.  

Ogier won in Turkey last season. Photo Credit: Mahmut Cinci / Red Bull Content Pool

Third a fortnight ago in Estonia was Sebastien Ogier, who could be arguably favourite going into this weekend. The French six-time WRC winner won in Turkey last year while driving for Citroen and will be wanting to extend his nine-point lead over teammate Elfyn Evans.

So far in 2020, there’s been four different winners from the four events so far, with Tänak, Ogier and Evans being joined by Thierry Neuville.

The Belgian had a poor return to action in Estonia and scored no points after crashing out of Saturday before mechanical problems saw him struggle on the Power Stage.  

With points this season more vital than ever before due to the decrease in number of events, it means Neuville will need to outscore as many of the drivers ahead of him this weekend as he possibly can.

The aforementioned Breen sits out Turkey, and is replaced in the third Hyundai by Sebastien Loeb, who makes his first WRC appearance since the opening round in Monte Carlo.

The Frenchman has won here three times before but will surely have more of a ‘team player’ role to play this weekend with his chief aim of needing to take points off both Tänak’s and Neville’s rivals.

Rovanpera won the Power Stage in Estonia. Photo Credit: Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool

Both Toyota and Hyundai have several of their drivers who are all capable of winning events, so how both Tommi Mäkinen and Andrea Adamo deal with keeping all of their drivers happy could be key for the title in this years championship.

This point is none-more so apparent than at Toyota, as all three of their drivers (Ogier, Evans and Kalle Rovanperä) showing on the WRC’s return that they’re more than capable of setting stage winning times.

M-Sport Ford believe they’re capable of a much stronger result than they achieved in Estonia ahead of this weekend.

This belief is none-more so apparent than with Esapekka Lappi, who had been battling with Ogier for the lead last season before having to settle for second in a Citroen one-two on the event last year.

Teemu Suninen also went well last season for the Cumbrian team and took fourth overall, so will believe he’s capable of another strong finish this year. Gus Greensmith again appears for the team as he looks to continue gaining experience in the third Fiesta WRC.

Fourmaux finished strongly last time out behind class winner Østberg. Photo Credit: M-Sport Ford

WRC2 has three drivers on the entry list for round five of the season, with podium finishes Adrien Fourmaux and Pontus Tidemand being joined again by Eyvind Brynildsen.

Fourmaux took his best finish of the season in the class in Estonia will be hoping to continue his form this weekend in the M-Sport prepared Ford Fiesta R5 Mk2.

Winner of each of the events he’s competed in so far this season, Mads Østberg, isn’t however taking part in Turkey and sits out this weekend.

He had been rumoured to be competing at Riga in Portugal aboard a new Citreon C3 ERX in the Projekt E series, but this appears to now not be happening.

WRC3 will also have a different winner from that of Estonia after Oliver Solberg will also not compete in Turkey.

Although the Young Swede doesn’t enter the event, the class still sees a sizeable 12 entries, with favourites for the win surely having to include Marco Bulacia Wilkinson and Kajetan Kajetanowicz.

A number of local drivers are also competing in the class which include Yağiz Afci in a Citreon C3 R5 and Burak Cukurova and Uğur Soylu in a pair of Skoda Fabia R5s.

Rally Turkey gets underway on Friday evening and continues throughout this weekend.

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