MARMARIS - After a dramatic day in which the two men ahead of him in the championship retired after leading, Ott Tanak finished Saturday in first place in the Rally of Turkey.

Championship leader Thierry Neuville broke his suspension on the first special stage of the day. Sebastian Ogier then inherited the lead, survived a shattered wheel in the next stage, but drove off the course in the one after that. Belgian Neuville is 23 points ahead of Frenchman Ogier in the driver standings. Both could rejoin the rally on Sunday in the hope of picking up some championship bonus points in the closing Power Stage.

Tanak is third in the driver standings, 36 points behind Neuville. The Estonian finished the day 13.1 seconds ahead of his Toyota teammate Jari-Matti Latvala a Finn, with New Zealander Hayden Paddon 1min 10,5sec behind in his Hyundai.

At the start of the day, Neuville led Ogier by 0.3 seconds and was 8.0sec faster than the Frenchman two thirds of the way through the 34.24-kilometre eighth stage, but then the top mounting punched through the bonnet of his Hyundai, the World Rally Championship website reported. He limped on but crossed the line 3min 30sec down.

"Something is broken. We didn't hit anything. I don't know, unlucky, really unlucky," Neuville told the website. That left Ogier 25.5sec ahead of Andreas Mikkelsen in a Hyundai but the Frenchman suffered mechanical problems of his own on the next stage, smashing the right wheel on his M-Sport Ford. He was forced to slow and finished seventh, 18 seconds behind Mikkelsen who won the stage.

"It happened in the middle of the road, over a crest," Ogier told the WRC website. "I didn't see what was there, it looks like a hole in the road. I thought I would have to do the stage with only rear-wheel drive."

 Ogier and his co-driver Julien Ingrassia made roadside repairs themselves. "To make the repair we had to damage the transmission," Ogier said. "Not every bolt was tight and I was very surprised it worked."

He arrived late at the start of the next stage incurring a 60-second penalty that put Mikkelesen in the lead. On the next stage Ogier drove off the road, became stuck and had to retire. When Mikkelsen suffered suspension problems of his own on the 11th stage, Tanak became the day's fourth leader. Latvala climbed to second despite finishing the stage with a puncture.

Tanak even stopped during the stage to lend assistance in the day's most spectacular mechanical meltdown, contributing his fire extinguisher after Craig Breen's Citroen burst into flames. The car was destroyed but Breen and co-driver Scott Martin escaped unscathed. The rally has taken a heavy toll and 27 of the 90 starters have already retired.