Four-times World Champion Tommi Makinen put in a consistent performance in his Subaru Impreza WRC2003 to finish the day in a strong fourth place, 31.4 seconds behind overall leader Harri Rovanpera. His team mate 555 Subaru driver Petter Solberg...
Four-times World Champion Tommi Makinen put in a consistent performance in his Subaru Impreza WRC2003 to finish the day in a strong fourth place, 31.4 seconds behind overall leader Harri Rovanpera. His team mate 555 Subaru driver Petter Solberg made a promising start, and demonstrated the new car's impressive pace on gravel by taking two stage wins. Unfortunately, he later retired when his car hit a rock and suffered a broken steering arm.
SS1 1900hrs (Thursday) Efes Pilsen Super Special (1.55km)
Fastest time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 1:12.1
Following Thursday's ceremonial start in Cumhuriyet Meydani, the 60 competing crews made a 5km journey to nearby Konyaalti on the outskirts of Antalya to contest the first stage of the event, the 1.55km Super Special. Running in pairs, side by side in reverse order, drivers negotiated the floodlit twisty, loose surface test, in front of ten thousand cheering spectators, who had turned up in droves to support their favourite drivers. Fortunately, the first stage of the new WRC event brought no major upsets to any of the leading WRC crews and, at the end of the test the top ten drivers were separated by only 1.8 seconds. Peugeot's Marcus Gronholm narrowly beat 555 Subaru World Rally Team driver, Petter Solberg, to fastest time, finishing just 0.1 seconds quicker. Petter's Subaru team-mate, Tommi Makinen, was seventh. After SS1, crews made their way back to parc ferme in Kemer.
SS2 0901hrs Simena 1 (2.73km)
Fastest time: Solberg (Subaru) & Rovanpera (Peugeot) 1:52.7
Despite having been extensively shortened by organisers following bad weather conditions and a massive landslide, the first test of the day was no gentle start for the 57 crews, providing little time for them to establish a rhythm. Run on a loose surface open main road, the test was one of the fastest of the event. Subaru's Petter Solberg demonstrated the Impreza's competitive pace on its gravel debut and stormed through to take the joint fastest time with Peugeot's Harri Rovanpera. It was enough to snatch the overall lead. Tommi Makinen was eighth, just 1.7 seconds behind. An impressive run by Juuso Pykalisto and Gilles Panizzi, both competing in Bozian Racing Team 206s, saw the drivers finish third and fourth respectively.
SS3 0939hrs Phaselis 1 (16.42km)
Fastest time: Solberg (Subaru) 12:28.6
The first long test of the event saw the first major shake up to the overall leaderboard as the twisty stage, run high up in the Anatolian Mountains, brought a host of problems for some of the leading crews. Surprisingly it was not the test's icy corners or rough gravel surface that were to blame, and many crews were dogged by mechanical failures. Ford's Markko Martin, who had been in fourth overall, contested the stage with only first and second gear and dropped over a minute and a half, while team-mate Hirvonen lost over 35 seconds when a hydraulic cooler pipe split causing an oil leak. Peugeot's Marcus Gronholm also plummeted down the leaderboard after losing fluid from his power steering five kilometres from the finish. A faultless performance however from the Subaru's of Tommi and Petter. Running sixth and eight on the road respectively, the Scandinavians charged through and took the fastest and second fastest time.
SS4 1027hrs Silyon 1 (29.87km)
Fastest time: Rovanpera (Peugeot) 23:51.8
Teams had expected the event would be tough on cars and on SS4, the first run through the narrow and technical Silyon test, some competitors paid the price. First to go was Subaru's Petter Solberg. After setting fastest times on SS2 and SS3, the Norwegian hit problems three kilometres in when, on the approach to a right hand corner, his right front wheel clipped a rock on the apex which broke the front right track rod, Unable to continue, Petter had to retire on the spot. Ford's Mikko Hirvonen suffered a similar fate and retired a further 9km in with a broken front right suspension strut. Citroens' Sebastien Loeb failed to even start the test. The Frenchman took the wrong turn on the road section between SS3 and SS4, missed the scheduled refuel and consequently did not have enough petrol to make it back to the refuelling area. Looking to the leaders, Rovanpera, who was benefiting from his late running position and a clearer road, finished quickest, while Schwarz was second. Tommi was fifth.
SS5 1345hrs Perge 1 (14.91km)
Fastest time: Martin (Ford) 11:50.5
His gearbox problems having been resolved in preceding service, Ford's Markko Martin was back on the pace in SS5 and raced through to take the fastest time and make up some of his 3 minute 23 second deficit. His team-mate Duval, competing with a new co-driver at this event, was third fastest. Armin Schwarz, who had been second overall, finished ninth quickest, but after picking up a 20-second penalty for leaving service two minutes late while mechanics worked to replace his Hyundai's damaged exhaust system, dropped to seventh overall. Power steering and hydraulic problems continued to dog Gronholm. In what was becoming a rally to forget for the Finn, he picked up a 1 minute 40 second penalty for arriving late at a time control after trying to fix the problem with co-driver Timo Rautiainen. At the end of the test they trailed the leaders by 6:28.9 seconds.
SS6 1448hrs Silyon 2 (29.87km)
Fastest time: Rovanpera (Peugoet) 23:19.1
The second run through the rough Silyon test, the longest of the day, did not bring a repeat of the dramas of SS4. With average speeds marginally faster due to some of the loose gravel having been swept away on the previous run, Rovanpera took the stage win, followed by Martin, who was 0.6 seconds behind. Running in temperatures of six degrees, the leading drivers continued to trade times and switch places on the overall leaderboard and, at the end of the test, 30 seconds separated the top three drivers and 1 minutes 20 seconds, the top ten. Gronholm's mechanical problems persisted and at the end of the stage the current World Champion, lay 10 minutes 57.1 seconds behind the overall leader, his team-mate Rovanpera. Despite suffering a spin and a stall, which cost him ten seconds, Tommi Makinen still finished fifth fastest. Hampered by cooling problems all day, the engine in Didier Auriol's Skoda Octavia finally expired on the road section, 2km before the final service.
David Lapworth , 555 Subaru World Rally Team Principal: "Conditions for all competitors have been tough. We expected that Leg one would be eventful, and unfortunately Petter was one of the victims. He seems to have been unlucky, but we can take some consolation from the fact that he was full of praise for the gravel set-up of the new car and is keen to make amends in New Zealand. Tommi has had a reliable run and has found a driving rhythm which he feels comfortable with. We are expecting the rest of the event to be as full of incidents as today, so Tommi's plan is to drive carefully, keeping something in reserve for a sprint finish."
Tommi Makinen: "Today's gone very well. We had a couple of small problems on the longer stages but, on the whole, it's been very encouraging. I think that the car has come together really well. For tomorrow we're going to make some little set up changes, but I'm happy with my position at this stage in the rally."
Petter Solberg: "That's just how it is sometimes. It's a shame to have such bad luck but I must say the car is feeling so good that I'm not too upset. I don't think we can set the car up much better than we did for this event, so I don't have a lot to do before New Zealand. Despite today, I'm still feeling very positive."
News from Pirelli
Fiore Brivio , Pirelli Tyres Rally Manager: "Both drivers chose the wider Pzero K Pattern tyre with a soft compound. By second service, temperatures had risen to two degrees on the stages requiring a harder compound choice. Tommi is looking to find the right cut to further increase the grip afforded by his Pirelli tyres. We are confident that the car and tyres will continue to work well tomorrow."
Team Talk -- New Event, New Place, New Plans--
Organising the logistics for a fifty person WRC team can be demanding at the best of times so, how did the 555 Subaru World Rally Team go about preparing for a totally new event? We got the low down from 555 SWRT co-ordinator Ken Rees--
* "The biggest problem about planning for a new event is that it's almost a total unknown. This event has been difficult due to the late issuing of the final 2003 calendar and the Safari situation, which meant that both the organisers and teams only had four months to prepare
* "I look after the team members and ideally start planning for an event eight months in advance. Flights and hotel accommodation are always the first things to be booked. With six manufacturer teams, media and fans all travelling at the same time there can be more than 1,000 looking for flights so they fill very quickly.
* "The most important thing for a new event is good support from the organisers, which we've certainly received here. The organisers invited Paul Howarth (555 Subaru Rally Operations Director) to the event last year and supplied an agency that helped us sort out accommodation. For this event the 555 Subaru team has required 55 flights, 45 hotel rooms, 20 vehicles, 55 visas and countless coach transfers to and from the airport. I'm normally planning at least six events simultaneously, so support on new events is well received!
* "I attended the event two days earlier than normal to have a good look round, meet the organisers, find out the service park arrangements and prepare for the arrival of the team. The biggest difficulty here was coping with the exceptionally bad weather that Turkey's experienced over the last two months. It's made the itinerary and logistics change weekly, but the organisers visited the past three events and assured us that they had control of the situation, which certainly appears to be the case. The experience will mean that they certainly learn a lot this year and I would expect that, given the time to prepare for 2004, it has the makings of an exceptionally good event in the WRC calendar
Starts at 0600hrs, when crews leave Kemer parc ferme for the first service of the day. The longest of the event, Leg two comprises a further seven stages and 158.52 competitive kilometres. Run west of Kemer in the Anatolian Mountains, the first two stages (SS7 and SS8) will be repeated at the end of the day as SS12 and SS13. The first test starts at 0711hrs.