As the third round of the FIA World Rally Championship progressed into its longest leg with stages to the west of the event's base in Kemer, Carlos Sainz moved his Citroen Xsara WRC to the head of the field on the tenth stage. Previous incumbent...
As the third round of the FIA World Rally Championship progressed into its longest leg with stages to the west of the event's base in Kemer, Carlos Sainz moved his Citroen Xsara WRC to the head of the field on the tenth stage. Previous incumbent of the number one spot Harri Rovanpera, suffered suspension failure after a collision with some rocks two kilometres into the Myra test. Rovanpera had been 22.8 seconds ahead of Sainz when they went into the stage, but the Finn's problem cost him close to eight minutes and his place in the top ten. He would retire from the event after the day's final stage.
Sainz was on fine form through the second leg, fastest on three of the day's seven stages to build a lead of 1m 19.5s by the close of play. Richard Burns enjoyed a similarly trouble-free day, to climb four places into the runners-up spot, with Ford's François Duval maintaining his leg one pace to take third. The Belgian had lost his podium position to Makinen on the second stage of the day, but suspension damage dropped the Subaru driver back down the field. Colin McRae moved in the opposite direction to hold fourth ahead of Gilles Panizzi and Toni Gardemeister.
Kosti Katajamaki took over the lead of the FIA Junior World Rally Championship category in his Volkswagen, following a power steering problem late in the day for Daniel Carlsson.
Technical: The two remaining Citroen Xsara WRCs of Carlos Sainz and Colin McRae ran reliably today. Sebastien Loeb retired yesterday morning when his car ran out of fuel.
Sporting: Despite his status as rally leader, Carlos Sainz was refusing to make any predictions about a possible 25th FIA World Rally Championship win. The Spaniard had set a blistering time through SS10, beating the rest of the field by 25 seconds. On the next stage, however, he suffered a puncture and an overshoot at one junction. Sainz ends Saturday's stages with a 1m 19.5-second advantage over Richard Burns. Colin McRae was happier with the set-up of his car, having stiffened the suspension. McRae spun in stages eight and ten and admitted he was backing off in some places, particularly towards the end of SS11.
Carlos Sainz said: "I'm still not 100 percent confident in the car, but it is getting better with every kilometre. Tomorrow is the longest day of the rally, so we will see where we are then. There's not a lot more for me to say, except that I'm happy now."
Colin McRae said: "The end of that 11th stage was atrocious. It was fast downhill for about four kilometres and there were big, big rocks everywhere - at that speed you just had to run over them. This is going to take its toll on the competitors, the difficult thing is trying to make sure it doesn't take its toll on us. The spin in stage ten cost us about 20 seconds, we had to reverse to get the car turned around."
Technical: The Peugeot 206 WRCs of Richard Burns and Marcus Gronholm ran reliably, but Harri Rovanpera's car suffered suspension failure on SS10. He retired three stages later with further suspension trouble.
Sporting: Harri Rovanpera dropped to 11th overall after hitting the rocks on the tenth stage. He attempted repairs after the stage, but there was nothing he could do as the right-rear damper had burst through its mounting. The Finn dropped another three minutes through the 20-kilometre Kemer test. Rovanpera then retired on the final stage of the day when the suspension problems re-occurred.
After the first two stages of the day, Richard Burns said he thought a podium position could be possible, two stages later he was there. The tenth stage wasn't without incident, however, as he slid off the road briefly. Marcus Gronholm moved up the order from an overnight 19th to hold 11th at the end of the leg.
Harri Rovanpera said: "We went into a third-gear left-hand corner, slid a little sideways and smashed into the rocks. We weren't taking any risks or doing anything stupid - this is just Turkey, with rocks everywhere - or maybe it is just my luck at the moment, I thought I had left this behind in Sweden."
Richard Burns said: "We stalled when we slid off on SS10 and then we had to reverse, so we dropped time there. This is a rally where it really pays to be sensible. Top two or three stages times will pay off by the end of the event."
Marcus Gronholm said: "There is nothing to talk about today, we haven't had any problems. We went off the road after 15km of SS10 - but that's about all."
Technical: The oil-pressure warning light came on in Markko Martin's car during the middle loop of stages, but it didn't appear to cause any problems, while the steering on François Duval's Focus RS WRC was damaged on SS9. He also suffered from a sticking throttle in SS13.
Sporting: François Duval started the day well, closing to the gap between himself and Sainz to less than one second. Unfortunately for the Belgian, he spun in the next test and dropped back to fourth behind Makinen. Burns passed Duval in the tenth stage, but by then both Rovanpera and Makinen had hit trouble, so the Belgian retained third. Markko Martin continued his climb back up the leaderboard after his gearbox troubles on the opening leg. The Estonian moved into the top ten and ended the day in seventh place.
François Duval said: "It was my mistake on the second stage this morning. I had to reverse three times to get the car straight and then it stalled twice. It was frustrating. On the stage where Tommi had his problem, I caught him up, but he was moved over and didn't cost us time. In the afternoon it was hard to turn the car after I'd hit something and damaged the steering."
Markko Martin said: "We're getting closer to Freddy Loix and Toni Gardemeister with every stage, but I think that's as good as it can get for us. Stage 11 was terrible, it was like driving down a field with rocks rather than a road."
Technical: Tommi Makinen's car suffered suspension trouble this morning after hitting a rock on the second stage. He hit another rock on SS10 and smashed the wishbone on the front-right wheel. Petter Solberg had retired yesterday with suspension trouble.
Sporting: Makinen moved past Duval and into third place on the second stage of the day, despite the left-front suspension damage. The four-times world champion posted second fastest time on the ninth stage, opening up a 12.1 second advantage over Duval, only to lose it when he clouted a rock on a fifth-gear downhill stretch. The impact smashed the front-right wishbone and tore a hole in the wheel arch where the suspension part was fixed to the car. Makinen stopped after the stage and tried to repair the damage using the strap used to keep the spare wheel in the car. The repair broke soon after the start of the stage, but he made it through the stage, but dropped over three minutes. He ended the day in eighth place.
Tommi Makinen said: "The rock was right in the middle of the road in stage ten, there was nothing we could do. We managed to get it to the start of the next stage, but then I felt the strap break not far in. I drove very, very slowly through there after that. The front wheel was moving about a lot. I think our best chance of making up any places now comes with the weather, it would be good for us if it rained tomorrow."
Technical: Armin Schwarz retired with suspension damage on the first stage of the day. Freddy Loix's throttle problems continued this morning and the Belgian suffered a blown turbo on the day's final stage.
Sporting: Schwarz's car stopped in the first stage of the day. The rear suspension ball post broke and the wheel jammed back into the arch. Schwarz attempted to continue through the stage, but was forced to stop when a driveshaft broke. Loix said the sticking throttle on his car was getting worse. The team changed numerous parts at the lunchtime service, but to no avail. To make matters worse, turbo failure cost him even more time in the second run through Kumluca. Loix had started the day 11th and then hovered around seventh and eighth place throughout the day, eventually ending Saturday in ninth.
Freddy Loix said: "It is so hard to drive the car with the throttle problem. When you are trying to brake the car just wants to go straight on. Every time I get to the finish of the stage without spinning or going off the road I have to congratulate myself, it is like a victory. The team has changed so many things, but we still don't know what the trouble is."
Technical: Toni Gardemeister's Octavia WRC broke a wishbone on the opening stage of the day, but was otherwise reliable. Didier Auriol retired yesterday, on the road section back to final service, with a blown engine
Sporting: Despite reporting some icy patches on the opening stage, Gardemeister moved into the top ten in stage seven. At service after the following stage, he made changes to stiffen the car's suspension - and immediately felt the car was better suited to the Turkish stages.
Toni Gardemeister said: "The car was better this afternoon, but it is still sliding around a little bit too much for me. The traction is still not right, we need more, but this is the best the car has been for the whole rally. There are still so many rocks around, it is terrible trying to drive around them - that was why we broke the wishbone first thing this morning. I enjoyed that last stage, I was faster and there was more grip."
Power steering failure on the final stage of the day cost FIA Junior World Rally Championship leader Daniel Carlsson six minutes. The problem for the Suzuki driver started just five kilometres into the test. Carlsson stopped on the stage and attempted to fix the problem, but couldn't do anything. He dropped to third place. Kosti Katajamaki moved to the head of the field despite his own power steering problem earlier in the day. The Volkswagen Polo man now enjoys a 2m 17s lead over Guy Wilks. Wilks was glad to get to the end of the leg following a worsening gearbox problem in his Ford Puma.
Gilles Panizzi maintained his impressive pace to keep fifth place overnight. The Frenchman was happy with his efforts on most of the stages, save for SS11 where he went off the road for one minute. Juuso Pykalisto made it two Bozian-run Peugeot 206 WRCs in the top ten. Pykalisto broke a roll bar on the tenth stage and struggled with bad understeer after that. The other problem for Marcus Gronholm's protégé was the rate he was using his Michelin tyres. Running a 2000-specification car, he didn't have the latest transmission which makes more economical use of tyres.