Marmaris (Turkey) (AFP)

Frenchman Sébastien Loeb (Hyundai), back after a long break, leads Rally Turkey on Friday night in Marmaris, after the first two special stages of the 5th round (of 7) of the World Championship (WRC).

The nine-time world champion is a big second ahead of his Belgian teammate Thierry Neuville, followed closely, one tenth, by another Frenchman, Sébastien Ogier (Toyota), winner last year in Turkey and provisional leader of the 2020 ranking.

The first two scratch times were signed by Neuville in Içmeler (SS1, 13 km) then Ogier in Gökçe (SS2, 11 km), but it was Loeb, second of these two specials, who took the lead in the park of assistance after this smooth opening.

Loeb, who has a freelance contract with Hyundai, has not raced in the WRC since his 6th place in the Rallye Monte-Carlo in January and therefore missed the following rounds in Sweden, Mexico and Estonia in early September, after the six-month hiatus linked to the coronavirus pandemic.

The leader of the Hyundai team and reigning world champion, Ott Tänak, who has just won the rally from his native country, has not sought performance in these two short stages and is provisionally ranked 7th, but less five seconds from Loeb.

Two passages in a loop of three specials are scheduled for Saturday during the second day, i.e. 107 km timed on rocky and very brittle tracks, in the hills and mountains above Marmaris, a seaside resort in southwestern Turkey.

© 2020 AFP