Flag-to-flag success for Ford/BFGoodrich's Marcus Groenholm! Marcus Groenholm/Timo Rautiainen secure their fifth win of the 2006 season to close to within 25 points of absentee Loeb. Groenholm and Hirvonen claim a one-two finish for ...
Flag-to-flag success for Ford/BFGoodrich's Marcus Groenholm!
Marcus Groenholm/Timo Rautiainen secure their fifth win of the 2006 season to close to within 25 points of absentee Loeb.
Groenholm and Hirvonen claim a one-two finish for BP-Ford/BFGoodrich which takes the British team 8 points clear at the top of the Manufacturers' standings.
BFGoodrich runners monopolise the final top-five in treacherous conditions. The heavens began to open over the Turkish resort of Kemer on the Wednesday evening, the day before shakedown. When a sudden violent storm flooded the service park and blew down half the teams' and organiser's awnings, it was clear that the 2006 Rally of Turkey was shaping up to be a daunting challenge with the promise of it turning into one long Turkish mud-bath! It rained again on the Thursday, for much of the following night and then again on the Friday morning as competitors headed out for the first stages. However, the organisers were forced to cancel the first two speed tests on safety grounds, as well as SS4 in which a handful of two-wheel drive cars had become bogged down in the mud.
In total, 82km of Leg 1's competitive action were scrubbed, but that didn't prevent Marcus Groenholm (Ford/BFGoodrich) from taking control as he profited from his status as first driver on the road to pull out an early gap of around half a minute thanks in part to his soft compound BFGoodrich g-Force Gravel 8 tyres and their 're-cut' pattern aimed at clearing as much water and mud from underneath his wheels as possible. In the absence of the injured Sebastien Loeb, it was Petter Solberg (Subaru) who emerged as Groenholm's main sparring partner and a series of four consecutive fastest times effectively put the Norwegian on target for what seemed to be a safe silver medal.
However, at the end of Leg 2, his car clouted a rock and the Subaru driver found himself stuck in a ditch and out of contention. Mikko Hirvonen (Ford/BFGoodrich) has finished systematically on the third step of the podium since last August's Rally Finland and the Finn again completed Day 1 in Turkey in 3rd spot with a slender cushion of 0.7 seconds over Henning Solberg (Peugeot/BFGoodrich) who went on to claim his first ever WRC podium finish, something of an exploit given that he hadn't nominated any soft rubber in his Turkish tyre package!
Day 2 saw Mikko Hirvonen up his pace to pull progressively clear of Solberg the Elder before ultimately finding himself in 2nd place following the demise of Solberg the Younger. With three rounds to go, the BP- Ford WRT/BFGoodrich team's first one-two finish of the year has enabled Malcolm Wilson's squad to regain the advantage in the Manufacturers' standings which Kronos Total Citroen has led since March's Rally Mexico. Despite Dani Sordo's excellent run in the longest stage of the rally (SS15) which took place in a hailstone storm, Kronos Total Citroen had a very difficult weekend. With no recent benchmarks, and unaided by a series of poor tyre choices early on, Colin McRae (Citroen/BFGoodrich) was unable to challenge for the podium and ended up retiring shortly before the finish with alternator failure. Spain's Xevi Pons (4th, Sunday October 15, 2006)
Citroen/BFGoodrich), who didn't have to comply with the tyre quota system, put in one of his finest performances of the year to finish clear of Kosti Katajamaki (Ford/BFGoodrich). The Finnish youngster showed an impressive turn of speed and remarkable consistency in the course of his sixth WRC outing with the VK-Stobart/BFGoodrich team and even succeeded in easing past factory Subaru driver Chris Atkinson on the final day. The difficult conditions enabled several other drivers to steal some of the limelight, including Andrea Aigner (Skoda/BFGoodrich), who posted the 4th best time in the torrential rain of SS14, and Francois Duval (Skoda/BFGoodrich) who backed up a quickest time on SS17 with a 4th best time on the following stage. Marcus Groenholm (Ford/BFGoodrich): "The tyre package I chose for this event didn't include many soft compound tyres. Even so, the medium compound g-Force Profiler '9-' (medium/soft) and 9 (medium) that I used on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning worked perfectly. Good weather information and good 'cuts' adapted to the conditions both played a key role in our success." Malcolm Wilson, BP-Ford WRT/BFGoodrich Team Principal: "Our first one-two of the year is a dream result for the whole team. Thanks to Marcus and Mikko, we now lead the Manufacturers standings and I would like to associate BFGoodrich in this achievement because the tyres, tyre choices and 'cut' choices were all decisive given the extremely difficult challenge we faced this weekend." Aime Chatard, Manager of BFGoodrich's Rally Programme: We didn't think we would find conditions like this in Turkey. Not with this much rain and mud.
BFGoodrich's technicians and 'cutters' did a first class job when it came to helping make some difficult tyre and 'cut' choices. The drivers essentially had a range of three main types of 'cut' they could choose from: the 'half cut', the 'full cut' and the 'extra full cut' which included an additional circumferential groove, a technique we are called upon to use just once every two years! There were also quite a lot of punctures and that was practically inevitable since the mud tended to conceal many of the rocks. Thanks to the mousse inserts, these punctures didn't have any effect on the results amongst the WRC runners, but they did have consequences in the ranks of the JWRC which outlaws the use of run-flat mousse.
This weekend was a big challenge for Colin McRae. Early in the event, he tended to put his times down to poor tyre choices but it soon became apparent that he was suffering from a lack of match practice and testing. His run underlined two things: a) that Loeb and Groenholm have been on a planet of their own this season and b) the importance of the osmosis between the driver and his tyre technician and their work done in testing together, especially when conditions are as difficult as they were this weekend." Michel Ducher, BFGoodrich technician delegated to work with Kronos Total Citroen: "Tyre packages for Turkey had to be registered with the FIA by October 2 which was before the confirmation of Colin's entry, so Colin had to run with Loeb's choice. This package was quite well suited to the conditions since it enabled two-thirds of the rally to be covered on soft tyres. I believe Colin suffered from his lack of knowledge of these products which have evolved significantly since 2003. The weekend's conditions meant it was vital to know them inside out in order to make the most of them."