Colin McRae/Nicky Grist are sixth at the end of an opening leg that was deprived of three special stages in the morning by some truly awful road conditions and weather. Xevi Pons/Carlos Del Barrio occupy eighth place while Dani Sordo/Marc Marti are 11th.
The first loop of stages was slimmed down to just the 9.9 kilometre Kumluca 1 test (SS3), after the two opening stages (Perge and Myra respectively) were cancelled because of low cloud cover that prevented the medical helicopter from flying. The drivers covered the route as a road section, which consisted of mud, mud and yet more mud ! The surface conditions varied according to the number of corners, but it was always unbelievably slippery.
On the second loop, the same problem forced the organisers to cancel Perge (SS4) again, and lop 13 kilometres off Myra (SS5). When it came to tyre choice, the Kronos drivers based their decisions on the conditions seen in the morning picking soft BFGoodrich tyres with the biggest cut possible. Instead, they found two stages that were drying up at an astonishing rate. Despite this, the cuts did not really hold them up during the 20 or so competitive kilometres that comprised the loop.
For the third and final loop consisting of the short Tekirova (the shakedown stage reversed), the long Phaselis (29.28km) and the traditional Akedeniz University superspecial Kronos banked once more on the roads drying up quickly. Dani Sordo went for medium compound tyres, Colin McRae stayed on soft tyres with a small cut, while Xevi Pons opted for a bigger cut.
This time, the muddy roads had not dried up as quickly as the crews had hoped, and the conditions were degrading with every car that passed. Xevi came off best out of the three Kronos drivers, while Colin and Dani had less to shout about. Having been fourth after SS6 (Kumluca 2), Colin dropped three places before making one up again at the superspecial. Dani also dropped three places, while Xevi limited the damage to losing just one place.
"From the start of SS7, where there was mud everywhere, I knew my tyre choice was wrong," said Dani. "The positive side was that my Xsara still felt predictable and easy to drive despite that handicap. On SS8 my notes worked well and I had a good feeling I was hoping for a decent performance. Tomorrow, we will try to make the right tyre choices and climb back up the leaderboard."
"I can't pretend that I'm not a bit disappointed," said Colin. "OK, we've lost time, but at least we know exactly why. We had hoped for dry conditions, or at least a clean line, whereas it was muddy from start to finish. However, I'm very happy with my Xsara. I grew in confidence with it as the day went on. It's certainly been an interesting way to get to grips with it !"
Xevi Pons, who performed consistently throughout the day and set a third- fastest time on SS5, commented : "My tyre choice was not perfect on SS8. I should have asked for a bigger cut, but it was not a disaster. Kronos generally gets it right in that department and I'm hoping for more of the same tomorrow...