Orhan Avcioğlu and Burçín Korkmaz romped to an emphatic victory in the Marmaris Rally, Turkey’s dress rehearsal event for inclusion in the 2018 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC).
The Toksport WRT Skoda Fabia R5 driver won seven of the 13 special stages in the hills and remote villages to the north and west of Marmaris. But the outcome could have been so very different had overnight leader Murat Bostanci not left the road in his Castrol Ford Team Turkey Fiesta R5 on the ninth stage and thrown away the lead.
With Bostanci sidelined, Avcioğlu controlled his pace to perfection to the finish to claim a winning margin of 6min 08.9sec over the consistent Burak Çukorova in his BC Vision Motorsport Skoda Fabia R5.
Çukorova and navigator Vedat Bostanci overtook Yağiz Avci and Bahadir Gücenmez on the final stage after the Red Bull-backed Peugeot 208 T16 R5 limped through the closing kilometres with engine issues and retired after the special.
Çukorova had overtaken the impressive Cypriot Alexandros Tsouloftas (Mitsubishi Lancer) on the morning’s first loop of three stages. Tsouloftas eventually succumbed to electrical cut-off switch issues with a couple of stages remaining and lost out on a potential fourth place.
His demise and Avci’s late woes lifted Cyprus-based Mustafa Bulutoğullari to third in his Skoda Fabia R5 and Uğur Soylu to fourth in a similar car. Adíl Küçüksari was fifth in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX. The result gave Skoda a 1-2-3-4 finish.
Castrol Ford Team Turkey’s Buğra Banaz controlled the RC4 class in his Ford Fiesta R2T and was also rewarded with sixth overall as the rate of attrition increased over the closing kilometres.
Sunday – as it happened
Bostanci took a 35.8-second advantage over Avcioğlu into the first of seven special stages on Sunday, a 17.63km gravel test in the hills to the south-west of Marmaris. The Ford Fiesta R5 was on form from the outset and a time of 12min 45.8sec enabled the recently crowned ERC Teams’ champion to extend his lead to 41.9 seconds. Özcan Söke left the road and retired his Ford Fiesta R2T.
The shorter eighth stage of 8.4km, named in memory of the late Lem’I Tanca, headed further west to the coastal extremities of the headland. Bostanci laid down the gauntlet with a time of 7min 25.4sec and pipped Avcioğlu by three-tenths of a second to stretch his advantage to 42.2 seconds. Çukorova overhauled Tsouloftas to take fourth position.
But it was not to be Bostanci’s weekend and the long-time leader left the road on the ninth 23.95km stage and could not continue. Avcioğlu carded the quickest time and stormed into a lead of 1min 48.6sec over Avci, who had lost a minute on the stage in any case but was running well clear of third-placed Çukorova.
The stage also spelt the end of the road for Bulgarian driver Georgi Geradzhiev: his Ford Fiesta R2 succumbed to fuel pump failure. Ümítcan Özdemír coaxed his stricken Ford Fiesta to the finish with the loss of over 30 minutes, but mechanical issues sidelined Onur Çelíkyay’s Fiesta ST.
After a regroup at the rally’s service park surrounded by the hills to the south-west of Marmaris, a repeat run through the three morning stages preceded the final 6.36km Red Bull stage, south of Marmaris.
Avcioğlu extended his lead to 2min 50.2sec with a crushing fastest time in SS10, but Avci was clearly struggling with engine-related issues and the Peugeot driver ceded just under a minute to third-placed Çukurova. Buğra Banaz maintained ninth overall in his Ford Fiesta R2T and continued to dominate the RC4 class.
The leader coasted through the penultimate gravel stage in a time of 7min 28.1sec and headed to SS12 with a lead of 3min 32.1sec. But Tsouloftas’s stunning run to fourth place in a Mitsubishi Lancer ground to a halt with technical issues and, even though he headed off to the next stage and completed it, the Cypriot was over his time limit with emergency cut-off switch issues.
Another quickest time followed for the leader in his Skoda Fabia R5 in SS12 and he extended the advantage over Avci to 5min 10.5sec, although the Peugeot driver had clearly slowed to conserve his engine. Privateer Deníz Fahrí failed to finish the stage in his Ford Fiesta R5 and lost a potential fifth position.
Avcioğlu coasted through the final stage in a time of 5min 17sec and duly etched his name on Rally Turkey’s roll of honour for a second time – he won the Bosphorus Rally in 2013 with a Ford Fiesta S2000. That list may include many illustrious names from world rallying over the coming years as Turkey re-enters the WRC after a seven-year absence. But there was late despair for Avci, who retired after the final stage.
The event will now take its place in the WRC calendar on September 13-15, 2018.
2017 Marmaris Rally Turkey – positions after SS13 (unofficial @16.30hrs):
1. Orhan Avcioğlu (TUR)/Burçín Korkmaz (TUR) Skoda Fabia R5 2hr 41min 40.1sec
2. Burak Çukorova (TUR)/Vedat Bostanci (TUR) Skoda Fabia R5 2hr 47min 49.0sec
3. Mustafa Bulutoğlulari (CYP)/Nebíl Öneral (TUR) Skoda Fabia R5 2hr 51min 03.9sec
4. Uğur Soylu (TUR)/Aras Dínçer (TUR) Skoda Fabia R5 2hr 51min 11.8sec
5. Adíl Küçüksari (TUR)/Kerím Tar (TUR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX 2hr 57min 20.6sec
6. Buğra Banaz (TUR)/Gurkal Menderes (TUR) Ford Fiesta R2T 2hr 58min 09.4sec
7. Erkan Güral (TUR)/Burak Koçoğlu (TUR) Skoda Fabia R5 3hr 04min 09.9sec
8. Cem Alakoç (TUR)/Yusuf Çelik (TUR) Ford Fiesta R2 3hr 05min 29.0sec
9. Menderes Okur (TUR)/Ufuk Uluocak (TUR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX 3hr 05min 48.1sec
10. Vedat Diker (TUR)/Erdal Oral (TUR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX 3hr 10min 00.3sec