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HYUNDAI Motorsport pair Thierry Neuville and Andreas Mikkelsen shared the lead at Rally Turkey on Thursday night after setting the fastest time though the opening stage in the streets of Marmaris.

PHOTO: Andreas Mikkelsen races top equal-first on the opening stage of Rally Turkey (Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool)

Mikkelsen set the benchmark time in his i20 after outpacing early leader Pontus Tidemand. The Norwegian remained on course for the stage win until Neuville stopped the clocks on the exact-same tenth.

Mikkelsen was not totally satisfied, despite his pace.

“It wasn’t a great stage by me but it was ok. I could have been faster in some places, but the rally can be lost here as well. We have a long day tomorrow and that is where the proper action starts,” he said.

His Belgian colleague was relaxed and smiling at the stage end.

“I’m on a combination of hard and soft tyres and some of the drivers had really scrubbed their tyres. I expected to lose time but i pushed really hard and did a good stage,” Neuville said.

Tidemand eventually finished third in his M-Sport Ford Fiesta, 1.6sec adrift of the flying Hyundais. Sébastien Ogier was 0.1sec. behind in fourth in a Citroën C3, 0.3sec . clear of the morning’s shakedown winner Kris Meeke in a Toyota Yaris.

Esapekka Lappi completed the top six in the second factory Citroën.

The action continues on Friday with a gruelling leg that covers more than half the event’s competitive distance.

Crews tackle two identical loops of three tests, including the 38.15km Cetibeli, the longest of the weekend. They add to 159.14km, with service in Asparan dividing the two loops.

End of day one (Thursday):

1 Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger-Amland (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) 2m02.6s
2 Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +0.0s
3 Pontus Tidemand/Ola Fløene (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1.6s
4 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +1.7s
5 Kris Meeke/Seb Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2.0s
6 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +3.9s
7 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +4.2s
8 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Škoda Fabia R5 Evo) +4.3s
9 Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +4.6s
10 Dani Sordo/Carlos del Barrio (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +4.9s

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Chris Nixon

Chris Nixon is Media Manager for Kennards Hire Rally Australia.

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