Sebastien Loeb topped the opening day of Rally Turkey after overhauling his Hyundai team-mate, Thierry Neuville, on a dust-affected second stage.
After an eight-month break from rallying, Loeb went second-fastest on both Friday stages to take the overall rally lead by 1.2 seconds.
Ott Tanak dropped four positions on the 11.3 km Gokce test to finish the day in seventh. The Rally Estonia winner was not impressed by hanging dust which hindered the crews running behind road-opener and stage-winner Sebastien Ogier.
“In the second one [stage] we had quite bad dust,” explained Tanak. “I was not ready to take risks at this early stage of the rally.
“It’s pretty disappointing as I remember clearly last year we decided not to have this situation.”
The defending World Rally Champion will start day two 4.8 seconds off the lead.
WRC points leader, Ogier, took advantage of the situation to set the fastest time on Gokce. Although he had to clean the gravel stage he was the only driver not to face patchy sections of dust.
His stage win moved him up to third overall offering a more promising road position on Saturday after the overnight running order reversal.
Despite a dominant 3.3-second stage win on Rally Turkey’s opening stage Neuville is just 0.1 seconds ahead of Ogier at the end of Friday. He was also critical of the conditions on Stage 2 as he lost five seconds to the road-opener.
Neuville will be hoping to return to his stage-winning pace tomorrow after a dismal Rally Estonia left him with 37 championship points to make up over the remaining three rounds.
Elfyn Evans and Kalle Rovanpera moved ahead of Tanak on Stage 2 to make it a clean sweep of Toyotas from third to fifth.
Teemu Suninen is the fastest M-Sport driver in sixth with Esapekka Lappi and Gus Greensmith in eighth and ninth.
Greensmith will be glad to make it to the end of the opening day after an accident on Friday morning’s Shakedown.
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Saturday’s action gets underway at 0645, UK time, on the 31.8 km Yesilbelde stage.
Rally Turkey standings: (End of Day 1 / SS2)
1 S. Loeb / D. Elena (Hyundai) 18:50.9
2 T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul (Hyundai) +1.2s
3 S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia (Toyota) +1.3
4 E. Evans / S. Martin (Toyota) +2.1
5 K. Rovanpera / J. Halttunen (Toyota) +2.7
Cover image courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool / Jaanus Ree