Rally of Turkey Leg One News Championship leader Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) was in sublime form. The Frenchman was fastest on eight of the nine stages. He lost his lead briefly on stage four when, as first car through the stage, he had to plough...
Rally of Turkey Leg One News
Championship leader Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) was in sublime form. The Frenchman was fastest on eight of the nine stages. He lost his lead briefly on stage four when, as first car through the stage, he had to plough a line through the thick mud. He ended the day with a 69.6sec lead. A surprise second was Gigi Galli (Mitsubishi), the Italian consistently fast and edging ahead of Loeb on stage four. Petter Solberg (Subaru) held third all day, despite opting for tyres that were too hard this morning, but he lost the place when Marcus Grönholm (Peugeot) slipped by on the penultimate test. The returning Carlos Sainz (Citroen) was quickly back in the groove and lies fifth. Behind Gardemeister, Markko Märtin (Peugeot) is seventh after dropping 50 seconds when his windscreen misted up in the fog on stage seven. Harri Rovanperä (Mitsubishi) held sixth until he retired on the penultimate stage with broken rear suspension. That test also saw the demise of Janne Tuohino (Skoda) who stopped with a broken front left wishbone. Ironically it was exactly the same rock that caused the retirement of team-mate Armin Schwarz with the same problem on the first pass this morning! Chris Atkinson (Subaru) retired in the service park after the third stage. He hit some rocks after sliding wide and ripped off the left rear wheel. The accident also holed the fuel tank.
As in the last three rallies, Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena have got off to a flying start in Turkey. The Xsara WRC crew was fastest over seven of today's eight stages and have carved out a healthy lead this evening. Back at the wheel of the second Citroën, Carlos Sainz and Marc Marti are ideally positioned to provide rearguard cover to their team-mates in their bid to secure as many Manufacturers' championship points as possible this weekend.
Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena: It couldn't have gone better. The car was perfectly balanced and I was able to do what I wanted with it. If I wanted to slide, it responded progressively. And when I wanted to keep it smooth, it wasn't a problem. The most difficult thing today has been tyre choice. This was the fruit of real teamwork and I think we can all be pleased tonight with the choices we made!"
Carlos Sainz/Marc Marti: "It wasn't such an easy day for me. My road position meant I came across lots of big stones on the stages. My speed came back bit by bit as I got used to the Michelin tyres which are new this season; the grip they give is excellent. The car's steering precision is also a little different to what I was accustomed to. I have therefore been looking to adjust the set-up differently to Seb with a view to making the car like I want it, which is to say very precise. Concerning tyre choice, because of the 24-minute gap between Seb and me on the road, I thought I would have more rain in the final loop and I possibly re-cut my tyres a little too much. That said, I am very pleased this evening because I think I am well placed to help Citroën."
As unpredictable mountain weather made tyre selection difficult during Leg one, Petter Solberg struggled to find the winning pace that has earned him two victories so far this season. Ending the day in fourth position overall, and with 200 competitive kilometres remaining, he remains committed to achieving a podium finish. Contesting his first ever WRC Turkey Rally, Chris Atkinson suffered an incident in SS3, which ended his Leg before he had a chance to get into his stride. He will re-start tomorrow intent on gaining more experience of the demanding Turkish roads.
Petter Solberg / Phil Mills: "It's been a very difficult day. I don't think I've had the correct tyre choice at all and it's hard to smile when you're fourth! In the afternoon we tried a new tyre evolution, but it was designed to work at 30°C, and it was just 16°C on the stage, so it didn't work at all and I had to do the best I could. We hoped that the rain would miss the stage, but it didn't! It's been very frustrating, but I'm not going to give up. Tomorrow is a very long day, I'm expecting a good fight with Marcus and there are plenty of opportunities for us to make the right tyre choices this time!"
Chris Atkinson/Glen Macneall: "I'm disappointed for both myself and the team, it was a silly mistake. The conditions were extremely slippery today and, although I started cautiously, I got caught out on a corner on the second stage and that was the rally over. Again, it's disappointing to finish a rally like this, but I have to be grateful for the Superally option and the chance to get more experience tomorrow. Although we didn't drive for very long, I had made a couple of set-up changes, which I felt worked very well. I hope that we'll have more opportunity to put these settings to the test on Legs two and three."
BP-Ford World Rally Team drivers Toni Gardemeister and Jakke Honkanen ended the opening day of the Rally of Turkey in sixth as four Focus RS World Rally Cars claimed top 10 places. Team-mates Roman Kresta and Jan Mozný lie ninth in a similar Focus RS, just behind the privately-entered version of Henning Solberg and Cato Menkerud and one place ahead of Antony Warmbold and Michael Orr.
Toni Gardemeister / Jakke Honkanen: "The first 20km of the opening stage were OK but I dropped time towards the end and I don't understand why. The car felt too soft so I made the dampers harder and it handled much better on the next tests. The first stage of that next group was muddy like hell. I think I drove too aggressively and there was a lot of sliding into banks. It wasn't good. But the next two were quite dry. The times were better and I was happier."
Roman Kresta / Jan Mozny: "It wasn't so easy to drive quickly when trying to learn the characteristics of the roads. But they are really nice stages and I made no mistakes. This morning the gravel was quite loose, damp and slippery, but not muddy like it was during the recce. It was tricky when it rained this afternoon. The windscreen wipers were on all the time and the roads were slippery. Tomorrow I will try to keep the same steady pace - fast but not taking any risks."
From the start Sebastien Loeb took the lead, leacing behind him a train of three cars which would fight a fierce battle throughout the day : Gigi Galli, Petter Solberg and Peugeot 307 WRC driver Marcus Gronholm. The two following loops of stages, taking in six tests and 108 competitive kilometres were run in uncertain conditions, with threatening rainclouds, and plenty of mud for 10 kilometres of a treacherous SS7. The two Peugeot 307 WRCs nonetheless went on 'dry' tyres which were slightly cut. Despite a big rain shower Marcus Gronholm set two excellent times which allowed him to take the third place previously occupied by Petter Solberg.
Marcus Gronhölm / Timo Rautiainen: "Today has been OK, but I am a bit disappointed not to be faster. We have tried our best today and had no real mechanical problems, but it does not seem possible for us to fight for the lead here. We are still having a good fight for second place, so now we must just carry on like this and concentrate on getting the maximum points for ourselves and Peugeot. On the last stage before the superspecial I had a small gear selection problem which meant that I had to use the manual shift, and on the superspecial itself I stalled, but apart from that it has not been too bad."
Markko Martin / Michael Park: "Today has not really been fun but we have still come out of it with a car that is intact and no serious mechanical problems. On the last loop of stages this afternoon we had some rain, which made the roads very slippery. Unfortunately the windscreen misted up, but when I tried to put on the demister I accidentally knocked an electrical switch and lost some time. Overall, I've been happy with my tyre choices, so let's wait and see what happens tomorrow."
At the end of the opening leg of the Rally of Turkey, round seven of the FIA World Rally Championship, the Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports WRC crew of "Gigi" Galli and Guido D'Amore hold second overall ahead of a host of former World Rally Champions. The Italian Lancer WRC05 crew also not only led an FIA World Rally Championship event for the first time in their careers (after SS4) but brought further encouragement to Mitsubishi, heading the field for the Japanese manufacturer for the first time since the legendary Safari Rally in 2001. Team-mates Harri Rovanperä and Risto Pietiläinen were running well until forced to retire from sixth position with damaged rear suspension.
Harri Rovanpera / Risto Pietiläinen: "We have to wait and see exactly what the damage is, but it seems that the suspension has bent, leaving the tire rubbing on the inside of the wheel arch. The wheel wouldn't turn and we had to stop in the stage."
Gigi Galli / Guido D'Amore: "It has been a fantastic day and we have all done a good job. For me it is not so much the work we have done here, but what we achieved on the test last week. The tires have also worked well and we have made a good choice everywhere, so my thanks go to Pirelli. Tomorrow, we have some really hard-charging drivers behind and it will be a big fight. But we have to be clever; I will stick to my own rhythm because I know they are much more experienced and I am not perhaps ready to fight with someone like Marcus (Grönholm). If it's dry, it will certainly be harder to keep him behind."
Skoda Motorsport World Rally Team drivers Armin Schwarz and Janne Tuohino were both forced to withdraw from the Rally of Turkey today after breaking the suspension on the Fabia WRC 05. The incidents occurred on a particularly rough section of the Myra stage with Armin retiring on the first run and then Janne (who had been struggling all day with a debilitating stomach upset) suffered the same fate when the stage was re-run later in the afternoon. The team has decided not to restart Armin tomorrow and only Janne will return to action under the SupeRally system.
Janne Tuohino / Mikko Markkula: "I was feeling quite ill all day and couldn't push too hard. The conditions were more humid than we expected after the hot sunshine and there wasn't much grip at times. It was unbelievable that we suffered the same problem as Armin in the same spot."
Armin Schwarz / Klaus Wicha: "The conditions this morning were very tricky, especially on SS2 and SS4 which had thick fog during the recce. The notes were very tricky to follow in today's different conditions. The car was working very well after we adjusted the suspension after SS3 but on SS5 I ran over some rocks and broke a wishbone which meant we could not continue."