One Day in Turkey

The Rally Turkey started today, and as expected it’s been a rough event, with matters complicated by heavy rains with have turned some of the stages into rivers. Carlos Sainz is the only works driver to have made it through the day unscathed, though all he has to show for it is fourth place.

The biggest casualty has been Markko Martin. Martin had problems all day, culminating in a water-crossing gone bad, costing him 50 MINUTES to the leaders. Martin has quite an uphill fight to even back into championship contention, and given the consistency shown by Petter Solberg and Sebastien Loeb, he needs an absolute miracle to even be in the title hunt.

Solberg had several moments throughout the day, but he lies in third, just under a minute behind Loeb. No doubt he’ll judge Loeb’s pace tomorrow and decide whether or not to fight for second or gun for the win. Marcus Gronholm is currently in second, roughly 15 seconds adrift of Loeb, and the Finn is happy with that result, given his rough morning. He is close enough to Loeb to force the issue and not allow Loeb to back off at all tomorrow.

Loeb actually benefited from the poor conditions — driving first on the road (as championship leader) he wasn’t acting as a gravel sweeper, and, thanks to the mud, the later drivers had to deal with rocks and deep ruts. Loeb has to hope for drier roads tomorrow, however, since he’ll be running last on the road.

There’s a pack of drivers, including Sainz, Francois Duval, and Harri Rovanpera, bunched behind Solberg, so it should be an interesting weekend. Drivers won’t be content to stand pat with only seconds separating them.