BP-Ford geared up for more of the tough stuff in Turkey After claiming a record-breaking 50th consecutive points finish in the FIA World Rally Championship on the toughest round of the season in Cyprus earlier this month, Ford aims to start its...
BP-Ford geared up for more of the tough stuff in Turkey
After claiming a record-breaking 50th consecutive points finish in the FIA World Rally Championship on the toughest round of the season in Cyprus earlier this month, Ford aims to start its second half century on an event only marginally less arduous. The Rally of Turkey (2 - 5 June) is the second episode of a trilogy of hot weather, rough road gravel events in the eastern Mediterranean, all of which place high demands on both cars and drivers.
The harsh environment of the Anatolian mountains above Turkey's southern coast traditionally takes a high toll on competitors. This seventh round of the championship is unlikely to be as rough as the savage car-breaking roads encountered in Cyprus. The twisty, steep tracks generally have a softer, muddier base but they tend to cut up quite easily, becoming rutted and exposing large rocks on the ideal driving line.
Temperatures in the rally base at Kemer are likely to exceed 30C. The speed tests climb to a maximum of 1800 metres so it will be cooler in the mountains, but average speeds are relatively slow and there will be little airflow to cool hard working engines, transmissions and drivers. However, recent rain in the region and the forecast of more to come threatens to provide surprise conditions, making tyre nomination difficult and swelling the many water crossings.
The rally will be a step into the unknown for the BP-Ford World Rally Team, which currently lies third in the manufacturers' championship with the Focus RS World Rally Car. Toni Gardemeister and Jakke Honkanen, who are fourth in the drivers' standings, finished seventh on the rally's maiden championship appearance in 2003. However, that was in early March when the region was just emerging from severe winter storms which devastated the roads and snow patches lay alongside the tracks. Team-mates Roman Kresta and Jan Mozny have never competed there.
The Focus RS has an excellent reputation for reliability and strength on rough events, one which 30-year-old Gardemeister hopes to use to his advantage. "I think a podium finish is very realistic," he said. "We missed out on a podium place on each of the last two rallies through bad luck. But the performance of the Focus on those events gives me great motivation for both this rally and the next in Greece, which is another rough event.
"I finished seventh here two years ago but conditions will be totally different this year. There was snow alongside some roads and very few of the stages are the same so I will treat it like a new rally. It's similar to Cyprus, except that the roads are a lot wider and not as twisty, so it's faster. But I remember it being very rough, and although that was after a bad winter, I'm sure it will still be hard on cars," he added.
Kresta's cautious approach to the last two rallies paid dividends. The 29-year-old Czech scored career-best sixth places in both Sardinia and Cyprus, both of which were hot, rough road events. "I've never been to Turkey before, not even on holiday," he said. "So I will follow the same tactics I used in the last two rallies. I'll drive cautiously, at a speed with which I'm comfortable and aim for another solid result. I want maximum experience of the roads and maximum kilometres in the Focus on gravel. Both are important for me so I hope a sensible pace will pay off. To drive flat out in rough conditions risks technical problems and punctures, as we saw on the last two rallies.
"As everything will be new to me, it's difficult to know what is the best set-up for the Focus. I learned a lot in Cyprus and had a good feeling with the car in similar conditions. I've spoken with many people whose advice is that Turkey is rougher than the Acropolis Rally in Greece but not as bad as Cyprus. So I'll start with the same set-up and see how I progress," he added.
* Four privately-entered Focus RS cars will start. Henning Solberg, who claimed a career-best fourth place in Cyprus earlier this month, and Antony Warmbold will both drive M-Sport-built cars. Ford Rallye Sport Turkey has also entered 2000-specification Focus cars for Mehmet Besler and Nejat Avci. The Turkish team will also have a new version Fiesta Super 1600 for Yagiz Avci.
* To help combat the heat, the seats in the Focus RS cars are fitted with a fan-controlled cooling system which blows air onto the driver and co-driver during stages.
* BP-Ford has nominated Michelin's Z pattern tyre for the event. Designed for a clear and hard surface, the Z tyre has a relatively compact tread pattern to ensure the maximum amount of rubber is in contact with the road for the best possible grip and traction. If the weather is wet or the roads have more loose gravel on them then expected, the team can cut the Z tyre to a ZA pattern. It is a more open tread, designed to penetrate the loose surface in search of firmer ground deeper down.
* The Focus RS cars driven by Gardemeister, Kresta, Solberg and Warmbold will all carry specially produced stickers on the front wings to commemorate Ford's 50th consecutive WRC points finish. Ford will also present a specially commissioned certificate to team director Malcolm Wilson during the team's Happy Hour in the service park at 19.00 on Wednesday. It will recognise the record-breaking partnership between Ford of Europe and M-Sport in the WRC.
There are few changes to the 2005 route. The holiday resort of Kemer, 40km south of the larger city of Antalya, is again the base and where the single service park will be located. All three legs are based in the complex maze of rough gravel roads high in the Anatolian mountains, west of Kemer. A late change to the itinerary means Thursday evening's super special stage next to the university in Antalya has been scrapped in favour of a ceremonial start in the city itself. However, the super special, where two cars race side by side, will be used at the end of each of the first two legs. Thirteen of the 17 special stages, covering 348.43km, were used in 2004, two in the opposite direction, while the other four were used the previous year. Eight stages are repeated although several overlap each other and some sections of road are used on four occasions. The total route distance is 1228.94km.