Hyundai just misses points despite Loix and Schwarz attack on Turkey. Hyundai World Rally Team crew Freddy Loix and Sven Smeets drove a confident Rally of Turkey but narrowly missed taking points for the Korean marque after reigning World...
Hyundai just misses points despite Loix and Schwarz attack on Turkey.
Hyundai World Rally Team crew Freddy Loix and Sven Smeets drove a confident Rally of Turkey but narrowly missed taking points for the Korean marque after reigning World Champion Marcus Gronholm gave a last minute push for the eighth manufacturer position, to snatch it from the Belgian crew who had to be content finishing in commendable tenth position overall.
The Rally of Turkey made its debut in this years' FIA World Rally Championship so it was an unknown entity for all. It was reported to be home to stages of a character in between those in Greece and Cyprus and it lived up to those expectations. The stages were very rough, often tight and twisty, taking their toll on the world rally machines passing over them. It would be fair to say that almost all leading competitors experienced problems -- mostly with suspension, dampers and power steering -- and time lost was regularly recorded in minutes rather than seconds. What is clear is that to win in Turkey requires enough luck to escape problems and it is that with which rally winner Carlos Sainz (Citro?n) and second-placed Richard Burns (Peugeot) were blessed.
Both Hyundai crews made a fantastic start to the rally with Armin Schwarz setting a second fastest stage time promoting his Accent WRC" to second overall. Belgian team-mate Freddy Loix set times competitive enough to keep hold of a point position throughout the event but unfortunately the rough terrain hindered progress for both crews -- Freddy lost time with a broken turbo at the end of leg two, and a damaged rear suspension dislocating the driveshaft handicapped Armin Schwarz, forcing his retirement.
Relieved to have finished the punishing rally, Freddy Loix was obviously disappointed to have not scored a point for Hyundai and the result did not reflect his performance over the course of the challenging mountainous stages which was to be commended.
"To be honest we had a lot of bad luck to have had so many problems," explained the 31-year-old Belgian. "First we had the sticking throttle then the broken turbo, which are both problems we have never had before so it is just bad luck. It's difficult when you have a turbo which feels good, then you change it and the next one doesn't feel so good, and then you have Marcus (Gronholm) on your tail chasing you very quickly. Unfortunately he pushed just hard enough to take the point from us but we tried our hardest. It really is a very tough rally," he concluded.
Freddy's co-driver Sven Smeets added: "It was hard as we were struggling for a lot of the rally and Freddy was really fighting with the car on the second day when the throttle was sticking which took a lot out of him physically. I think we had something like 4 stages out a total of 18 with no problems but that is the nature of rough rallies. The mechanics did a fantastic job to keep the car going so they deserve a big thank you."
Despite setting a blistering pace on leg one of the rally, Armin Schwarz and co-driver Manfred Hiemer's luck ran out at the start of leg two.
Armin explained: "Stage seven was looking really good for us until the suspension broke. I was happy with the settings we had found, the car was handling really well and I was quite comfortable with it. But now I have to think about New Zealand which I really like -- we have run well there so I look forward to being able to get a good result."
News from our rivals
After an eventful first and second leg during which six of the manufacturer frontrunners were forced into retirement, the final day was comparatively uneventful with no major problems recorded. Carlos Sainz recorded his 25th WRC victory, equalling the success of team-mate Colin McRae and a step ahead of Finn Tommi Makinen on 24 wins. Richard Burns brought his Peugeot to the finish in second and Francois Duval recorded his most significant success yet to add to his CV by taking his first podium finish.
The fourth round of the 2003 FIA World Rally Championship takes teams to more familiar gravel terrain around Auckland - the furthest destination the Championship travels to -- for Rally New Zealand which runs from 11-13 April 2003.