The event's harsh terrain should have a familiar feel. Run high in the Anatolian mountains, over a variety of broken gravel roads, the stages are broadly similar to those used a fortnight ago on the preceding event in Cyprus. However, there are...
The event's harsh terrain should have a familiar feel. Run high in the Anatolian mountains, over a variety of broken gravel roads, the stages are broadly similar to those used a fortnight ago on the preceding event in Cyprus. However, there are some important differences. Firstly, the speeds in Turkey are nowhere near as slow as in Cyprus. Secondly the stages are more varied, with several water-splashes and a range of interesting corners making them a spectator's favourite. Turkey has also had its date on the calendar altered for 2006, meaning that conditions should be significantly different to last year's. Its new slot, four months later and right at the end of the summer, makes rain a distinct possibility, as well as fog over some of the mountain tracks.
Making its fourth appearance in the FIA WRC calendar, this year's rally will be based once again in the town of Kemer, 40km south of the holiday resort of Antalya. The event will begin with a colourful ceremonial start in Antalya's Cumhuriyet Square on Thursday evening with the proper rallying taking place over the following three days.
The rally comprises 19 special stages and a total competitive distance of 351.01 kilometres. Friday's first Leg is the longest of the rally, with 152 stage kilometres, including a night-time Superspecial in the grounds of Akdeniz University. Leg two brings seven more mountain stages and another visit to the Superspecial, while Sunday's three stages make it the shortest Leg of the rally. The winning car is expected to cross the finish ramp in Kemer at 1306hrs on Sunday.
Kronos Total Citroen
Doubtless penalised by the temporary absence of number one team-mates Sebastien Loeb/ Daniel Elena, the Kronos Total Citroen WRT has no intention to give up in Turkey. The Belgian team, currently leading the 'Manufacturers' rankings, is firmly decided to face up to this real tough break and has chosen to enter British team-mates Colin McRae and Nicky Grist to drive the number 1 Xsara. Dani Sordo/Marc Marti are the second nominated crew to score points as since Germany. Xevi Pons and Carlos Del Barrio take the start behind the wheel of the 2005 Xsara with active differentials.
Colin McRae: "The good thing about Turkey is that I should have a good position on the road the first day. If I should start with Marcus [Gronholm] and Mikko [Hirvonen], I think it would be harder. Hopefully the conditions will be dry and I could take profit of starting around the fifteenth position. It might be enough to make the difference on the first day and give me time to get back in the pace for the second day. That's exactly what happened in Australia last year. On the first leg I found clean roads, built up my confidence and I could match the front runners pace the next day."
Daniel Sordo: "What I know from Marc [Marti] and the other drivers is that it's faster and nicer than Cyprus, so surely more enjoyable on a driving point of view. I spoke a lot with Matthieu Bassou, our car engineer and with Michel Ducher, the BFGoodrich technician who works with us. They know the Turkish stages and for me it's a great help. Thanks to their experience, we have tried to do a good job in selecting our tyre package. Regarding my result. I must finish the rally without any scratch on the car."
The OMV Peugeot Norway World Rally has every reason to be satisfied with the FIA World Rally Championship 2006 so far. Both drivers are in the top ten of the intermediate driver ranking - Manfred Stohl in fifth and Henning Solberg in eighth place. In the manufacture ranking they are in the lead of the M2-teams since the beginning of the season. But now there is a new objective for the OMV Peugeot Norway World Rally Team: to replace the Subaru works team in third place in the manufacture ranking until year's end.
Manfred Stohl/Ilka Minor: "Each new rally is a challenge, of course. But I don't think that we will have any problems. Compared to Japan, where I also premiered this year, the stages in Turkey are rather slow. That helps to find your rhythm faster. Furthermore, the difference to the Cyprus Rally doesn't seem to be too big - therefore a few WRC-points should be well possible."
Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud: "I really don't remember it that well. But I like this rally and I'm sure that I can be very fast there. Furthermore, Bozian-Racing promised me an excellently prepared car for Turkey."
BP-Ford World Rally Team's thrilling late season world title charge heads to Turkey next week with the squad's campaign boosted by a dramatic twist to the championship race. A string of strong points finishes in the second half of the campaign from Marcus Gronholm and Timo Rautiainen and team-mates Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen has enabled BP-Ford to close to within seven points of the leaders in the FIA World Rally Championship's manufacturers' series.
Marcus Gronholm/Timo Rautiainen: "I will be driving in Turkey to win the rally and then I will go to Australia to try to do the same. I will try to avoid problems, avoid mistakes and then if everything goes well I hope to win this rally. If we keep clear of big problems for the rest of the season then we have a very good chance of winning a championship - and the manufacturers' title looks our best option."
Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen: "As a team we need to catch the championship leaders and while we are still behind them in the points table, my approach to rallies will not alter. I need to score good points. If that means I can move ahead of Dani as well, then so much the better, but the manufacturers' championship is our main target."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford
The M-Sport run Stobart-VK Rally Team has entered two 2004-specification Focus RS WRCs for Britons Matthew Wilson / Michael Orr and Finns Kosti Katajamaki / Timo Alanne.
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Petter has tackled Rally Turkey three times before and has finished on the podium twice. His best result came in 2005 when he was second. Last year was Chris's first attempt at the rally and it proved to be a dramatic debut. The Australian retired on the first Leg after ripping a rear wheel off on a rock. He was back for Legs two and three to complete the route and build experience of the tricky conditions.
Petter Solberg/Phil Mills: 'The Turkish rally is good, I like the stages a lot and it's one that normally suits our car and tyres pretty well. We've shown good speed there in the past and I'm going to do the best job I can this time too. When it comes to setting a personal goal for the rally, I really want to say that I'll fight for a win, but given our current form that will be very difficult. So I'm aiming for a podium, but who knows maybe there will be the chance of something better. Things can change very quickly in this sport, and for sure things will turn around for us sooner or later.'
Chris Atkinson/Glen MacNeall: 'Turkey is a tricky rally with very varied conditions. Last time we had rain, hard-packed roads, some loose stuff, slow bits and flat-out sections. This year I'm expecting a bit of everything and changing conditions again - it's a fairly entertaining rally. Coming so soon after Cyprus I think it's going to be a difficult rally too. In Cyprus we weren't expecting a fantastic result, we were realistic about our chances and that's what we got. Next week I'm hoping to keep things more consistent and just hang in there. Going at the same pace we were running at in Cyprus I think a top-five finish is possible - we'll just have to wait and see.'
Red Bull Skoda
The two Red Bull Skoda team bosses Raimund Baumschlager and Armin Schwarz expect straight answers from the additional test session in Turkey on Monday: "We'll fly in an engine specialist from Liechtenstein just for that. He is to provide clarification on how the two for us still mysterious incidents did come about in Cyprus. We'll then process the results in time on location. After all we want to have another trouble-free rally with both Fabia WRCs in Turkey, just like we have managed so often throughout the season so far."
Harri Rovanpera: "I presume that the team will get a grip on the Cyprus problems. Of course we only had limited time for preparation, so we all have to work hard. Myself, I'm entirely motivated and I hope to finally bring in drivers' and manufacturers' points this time with a good result in Turkey without any particular problems."
Andreas Aigner: "I ran the shakedown only twice, this was enough to determine that we can go into the rally with a lot of optimism. But the weather conditions, with plenty of rain, should make for a very tough rally."