Andreas Mikkelsen opens Rally Turkey with speed test victory

Andreas Mikkelsen took the early lead of Rally Turkey, claiming victory in Thursday night’s curtain-raising Speed Test through the packed streets of Marmaris as the World Rally Championship headed back to Turkey for the first time since 2010.

The spectacular all-asphalt test features roundabout donuts, a jump, tight hairpin bends and another jump and attracted huge crowds.

Mikkelsen was the only driver to opt for Michelin’s medium compound tyres for the 2.00km test alongside the town’s picturesque marina. They worked well on the asphalt and the Hyundai driver topped the times by 2.5 seconds.

“I’m really looking forward to this rally. Hopefully our luck has changed now and we can have a good event. That would be nice,” said the Norwegian.

Craig Breen was second in his Citroën C3, with man-of-the-moment Ott Tänak 0.3s further adrift in his Toyota Yaris. Championship leader Thierry Neuville was fourth in another i20, with WRC 2 leader Jan Kopecký and Esapekka Lappi completing the top six.

Huge crowds lined the stage and were treated to a rare mistake by reigning world champion Sébastien Ogier, who was only 12th after dropping 7.5s following a nose-heavy landing in his Ford Fiesta over a jump. He missed the following junction, scattering roadside barriers.

“I had a massive kick on the jump which I didn’t expect and I couldn’t brake for the next corner,” the Frenchman explained.

Friday brings a gruelling day of 144.84km, divided into two identical loops of three tests. It starts with the 38.10km Çetibeli, the longest of the weekend and a stage which drivers described after the recce as the roughest of the season.