Tanak crashes out of Turkey Rally as Neuville takes charge

Marmaris (Turkey) (AFP) –

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Ott Tanak crashed out of the Turkey Rally on Saturday to severely dent his world championship title defence and leave the way open for Belgian driver Thierry Neuville to take the race lead.

Tanak's Hyundai suffered a steering problem when careering off the road at full throttle towards the end of the third stage.

Both the Estonian and his co-driver escaped uninjured.

Tanak, who had breathed fresh life into his title bid when winning his home rally in Estonia, was placed seventh after Friday's opening stages.

That left Sebastien Ogier in pole position to claim his seventh WRC crown.

The Toyota driver heads the championship standings, and for a while was in control in Turkey, the third last leg of this coronavirus-shortened season, from Neuville and Elfyn Evans, his Toyota teammate and main title rival.

The Frenchman dominated the morning to lead Neuville by 1.6 seconds after the first three stages.

But the Belgian then took advantage of the gearbox problems encountered by Ogier in SS6 and closed the day with a lead of 33.2 seconds over Ogier and nine-time champion Sebastien Loeb who had topped the timesheets after Friday's two stages.