Winners and Losers From Rally Turkey 2020
Wits the second post lockdown Rally under are belts the championship race is really heating up, we look at who has come out of Rally Turkey with the upper hand.
1. Elfyn Evans
Going into the weekend there was generally little talk of the Welshman, nobody really had him down to be battling for the victory, and to be honest, up until Sunday morning you could see why. Not really on the pace. Far enough ahead of Rovanpera to not worry about being overtaken but almost half a minute of the podium places, it seemed as if he were in no man’s land with yet another fourth place. However, Sunday morning would show he had judged his event to perfection, whilst the top three battled amongst themselves the speed at which they were pushing was finally too much for their cars and they started to break. If you are a cynic you could put his second victory of the season down to luck and good fortune, he himself said it’s not how he would have liked to win a Rally, but it is a similar case to how Ott Tanak won here in 2018 and everyone praised him for driving with a brilliant strategy. And it’s not like Elfyn hasn’t had his fair share of bad luck when it comes to losing a Rally win on the final day, Corsica last year for example or Argentina in 2017. His third career victory also puts him once again top of the drivers’ standings with an 18-point lead with either one, two or three rounds left depending on which source you believe. All in all, I think we can say this is the best chance a British driver will have at winning Rallying’s premier crown since the late Richard Burns almost 20 years ago.
2. Sebastien Loeb
What is it they say, form is temporary, class is permanent? I don’t think there has been a saying more perfect to describe a single athlete in any sport. After a somewhat underwhelming Monte back in January and given the fact he hasn’t competed in a Rally since then, we thought the master might ease back into the swing of things, but after Friday leading the Rally overnight, it felt like the good old days all over again. It was always unlikely that Sebastien would be able to contend for overall victory given his teammates were locked in a battle for the championship, yet he was there to reap the reward when Tanak retired to give the team crucial manufacturers points and an impressive first podium since Chile last year, his second for Hyundai. This is his last scheduled Rally for the season given Sordo and Breen are in the car for Sardinia and Ypres respectively, so we are unsure when we’ll next see him in a Rally car. It seems every time we ask whether it could be his last Rally, we always assume he will be back, this time, however, it could be different considering current circumstances and the lack of seas available for next year compared to the demand. If this was farewell, thanks for the memories champ, we will miss you.
3. Gus Greensmith
The past few months have been a horrible time for the Cumbrian outfit M-Sport Ford with truth be told not much to be looking forward to until the new regulations come in in 2022. Turkey did, however, show the first sparks of what could be a strong end to the season for young Brit Gus Greensmith. It’s fair to say he didn’t set the world alight but he was kind to the car and got through the stages without mistakes (beyond his mishap on shakedown) and crucially on a Rally such as Turkey this mechanical sympathy offers rewards and come Rally end on Sunday, he was up to fifth. Not only was he the highest placed Fiesta but he also achieved his career best finish, great maturity was shown by the young man which is a good sign for M-Sport as it proves they have a good young driver to support their two Finnish stars.
1. Ott Tanak
Coming into Rally Turkey it was clear what Ott needed to do, an overall 25 points and then as many as possible in the power stage to finally take a firm grip on the championship. Unfortunately for the Estonian, it was not to be as when running in the top 3 on the first stage of Saturday morning something went horribly wrong with the steering on his i20 and he veered into the banking in the most peculiar of fashion, it took Ott and Co-driver Martin Jarveoja a quick look to realise their Rally was over. But what does this mean for his championship? He is currently lying third on 70 points just 9 behind Ogier and 27 behind Evans, by his own admission he seemed to accept that his title bid was over but he is still the top placed Hyundai and who can ever really count out Tanak to pull a miracle and win everything between now and the end of the season. It certainly won’t be easy but if anyone in the current WRC can win a championship from this position it would be the reigning champion, it’s fair to say he’s hoping for as many events as possible this year.
2. M-Sport Ford
We always knew that Estonia was going to be a tough round for the British team so expectation was always low, we also knew that they haven’t had anywhere near the amount of testing that their rivals have had over recent times and we knew that the teams focus is survival rather than progression. But despite this we still thought they might be competitive when we arrived in Turkey, believing they had a real chance at battling for a podium at least, so it came as a disappointment to all of us when come the end of Rally they were lying with Greensmith in 5th Lappi in 6th and Suninen out after being their fastest driver. The weekend just never really got going for the team with Suninen offering glimpses of the car’s potential and Greensmith with a consistent drive to earn good points, but it was just issue after issue that left them with no chance of causing an upset. This shouldn’t come as a shock as with no testing to find out how the car works in the conditions; you’re always going to find yourself unprepared for a Rally as notoriously challenging as Turkey. It is sad we can’t have all three teams battling consistently for victories, and realistically M-Sport fans shouldn’t expect this to change until the new regulations in 2022, something which the independent team have been focusing on heavily in recent times. M-Sport’s day will come again but we might have to wait longer for it than initially hoped for.
3. Sebastien Ogier
The final name on this list is an unfortunate one as to be honest the six-time world champion barely put a foot wrong all weekend, and yet he came away with zero world championship points for his efforts. Having been in a battle for the win all weekend, Sunday brought the worst possible start when on the opening test he was one of the many drivers to suffer a technical issue when he had to change a puncture dropping him down the order, yet thanks to everyone else’s problems he arrived at the mid-day service in third which would have been enough points to see him remain top of the table with the power stage still to come. However, any hope Seb had of a healthy points finish went up in smoke (literally) when his engine gave up on him in the second pass of the now infamous Cetibeil test leaving him a picture of disappointment sat on a rock on the side of the road. This was his first non-score of the season which reflects his championship position of second, being Evans’s nearest challenger, yet he will be disappointed to be nineteen points behind with rounds rapidly running out. It would seem that Ogier is the biggest threat to a British world champion and in equal machinery, you wouldn’t bet against him. With the two next rallies being Sardinia, somewhere he hasn’t had the best form over recent years and Ypres an unknown for the WRC it really is anybody’s guess who will have the last laugh.