BP-Ford duo on target for points result on Rally of Turkey Both BP-Ford World Rally Team pairings hold points scoring positions after today's second leg of the Rally of Turkey as three Focus RS World Rally Cars lie in the top nine positions. ...
BP-Ford duo on target for points result on Rally of Turkey
Both BP-Ford World Rally Team pairings hold points scoring positions after today's second leg of the Rally of Turkey as three Focus RS World Rally Cars lie in the top nine positions. Toni Gardemeister and Jakke Honkanen are sixth, one place ahead of team-mates Roman Kresta and Jan Mozny, while the privately-entered Focus RS of Antony Warmbold and Michael Orr is ninth.
Drivers faced mixed conditions throughout the day on the gravel speed tests in the Anatolian Mountains, west of the rally base in Kemer. Sunshine and dry roads contrasted with rain and mud to make tyre choice difficult in the inconsistent conditions. Shade temperatures topped 25C while at the service park in Kemer they reached a sweltering 33C.
Today's route again comprised three loops of special stages, each split by a return to the service park. The first two loops were identical, while the last ended with two laps of side-by-side racing over the spectacular super special stage in Antalya. The 150.49km of competition made it the longest leg of this seventh round of the FIA World Rally Championship.
Gardemeister and Honkanen started the day in sixth but climbed to fifth on the opening stage in their Castrol-branded Focus RS as their confidence increased. "Everything felt better and I drove absolutely flat out in both stages, I couldn't have gone any faster. The car felt fantastic, especially on the twisty sections. I chose quite hard tyres but they were OK on the first stage, which was damp and muddy. The second test was drier and the rubber was perfect," said Gardemeister.
As the day continued he became embroiled in a huge battle for fifth with Markko Martin. The Estonian edged ahead by a handful of seconds until a front left puncture midway through the penultimate stage cost Gardemeister dearly. He dropped 2min 20sec, but did not lose any places. "About 9km before the end, I took a fast left bend into a downhill section and hit some stones. Immediately I saw rubber flying off the tyre. I continued to the end, by which time the flailing rubber had damaged the bodywork around the wheel arch and bumper," he explained.
Thirty-year-old Gardemeister responded with third fastest time on the final stage and ended the day 20.2sec ahead of team-mate Kresta.
Kresta and Mozny maintained their risk-free strategy and were rewarded with another troublefree day as they climbed into the points. The Czechs did some testing, opting for harder anti-roll bar settings after the first group of stages, and were pleased with the results. It was a hard day for Mozny though. He was still suffering with a sore throat and swollen glands - and all this on his 30th birthday!
"This morning was really good," said 29-year-old Kresta. "The car felt nice to drive, everything went well and my times were strong. This afternoon wasn't so bad, but I made a few mistakes on the last couple of stages before the super special. I don't know why but I didn't have a good rhythm and I made several mistakes in the muddy sections where I slid into banks."
Warmbold opted for tyres that were too soft on the opening stages but the German had a big scare on stage 12 when a fast entrance into a watersplash almost cost him dearly. "There was a big hole in the watersplash and as the water crashed down over the car the oil pressure suddenly dropped," he said. "We stopped immediately but the pressure started to rise again so the team told us to carry on and we had no more problems. The grip has been changing quite a bit and when that happens I don't drive so well because I lose confidence. But today has been much better than yesterday and, generally, I've been more confident."
Norwegians Henning Solberg and Cato Menkerud had moved up to seventh in their privately-entered Focus RS when a problem with the fly-by-wire throttle caused their retirement just 2.5km after the start of the penultimate stage. "The car stopped briefly on the previous stage but started again. Then in the next stage it stopped again. We changed the fly-by-wire motor and it re-started but we were out of time by then," he said.
The problem was traced to a false signal sent from the throttle position sensor which caused the throttle motor to fail. They will restart tomorrow's final leg under the SupeRally regulations and, having incurred a time penalty for not completing the final two stages, they are now 11th.
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Overnight leader Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) controlled his advantage and ended a troublefree leg having extended his lead to 1min 16.6sec. The big battle of the day was for second place. Gigi Galli (Mitsubishi) dropped seven minutes on the opening two stages when his car's turbo pipe became disconnected. That left Marcus Gronholm (Peugeot) and Petter Solberg (Subaru) to fight it out. The Norwegian was happier with his tyre choice and was faster on every stage except one to move ahead of the Finn by 7.8sec. Carlos Sainz (Citroen) experimented with his suspension set-up and kept out of trouble to hold a lonely fourth ahead of Markko Martin (Peugeot). Galli recovered to eighth, despite a clutch problem this afternoon.
The final leg is short and sharp. After leaving Kemer at 09.00, drivers face just two speed tests covering 49.80km before returning for the finish ceremony at 12.55. However, the final 33.35km Olympos stage is the longest of the rally.