Rally of Turkey: Mitsubishi preview

TEST & DEVELOPMENT AID MITSUBISHI LANCER WRC05's PROGRESS ON GRAVEL Galli joins Rovanperä in second registered Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05 The Mitsubishi Motors WRC team will make the short hop across the Mediterranean as the FIA World Rally ...

Galli joins Rovanperä in second registered Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05

The Mitsubishi Motors WRC team will make the short hop across the Mediterranean as the FIA World Rally Championship contenders move from Cyprus to Turkey for the seventh round of the series and the second of three consecutive hot and rough gravel rallies. After a promising performance over the car-breaking Cypriot stages, Harri Rovanperä and Risto Pietiläinen spearhead the team's assault on the Rally of Turkey (June 2-5), while Italian team-mates "Gigi" Galli and Guido D'Amore return to competitive action, having missed the Cyprus Rally in favor of the Panizzi brothers.

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution drivers for the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship are also preparing for one of their toughest tests of the season. The Rally of Turkey marks the mid-point in this series and although it is a grueling event, the Lancer Evolution's performance ensures that it will be among the front runners in the battle for victory.

The Rally of Turkey is based in the holiday resort of Kemer near Antalya, directly south of the capital city of Ankara and provides a unique mix of European and Middle Eastern character. The area is steeped in history with a beautifully restored harbor, quaint houses and restaurants lining the narrow streets, while the hilltops overlook stretches of white sandy beaches. While the event is quicker and more varied than Cyprus, it is still likely to be one of the toughest of the season with yet more rocks and boulders littering the roads and temperatures topping 30 degrees Celsius on the coast, which will once again test tire wear and physical stamina to the limit. As one of the newest additions to the series, Turkey has swiftly earned a reputation as a searching examination of man and machine, and while temperatures are likely to be cooler higher in the Daglari Mountains, rocks, ruts and dust mean there will be little respite for the drivers and none at all for the cars.

The Rally of Turkey joined the FIA World Rally Championship in 2003 and Harri Rovanperä/Risto Pietiläinen have competed in the event each year it has run in the series. However, the Finns have not had the best luck, retiring in 2003 with suspension damage and again last year with transmission problems. Their pace, and the performance of the Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05 in Cyprus, does however bode well for another points-scoring finish and, after a productive test that focused on these rough and rocky conditions, the Finns are confident they can improve on their seventh place finish two weeks ago.

"I completed lots of kilometers during two long days of testing and we tried many different damper settings and hopefully we have found something good for the conditions", commented Harri. "I certainly feel happier going into this rally than I did in Cyprus, as much because we have more knowledge and understanding of the car in these conditions. I'm happy to go to this rally and hopefully the roads will be even better than last year as it's an event I have performed well on. We were leading before breaking the rear dampers in 2003 and last year we had a good position before the gearbox problems. I hope we can do a nice rally and, without problems, I feel a top five is possible, for sure".

Team-mates Gigi Galli and Guido D'Amore only contested the Rally of Turkey last year in one of four outings in the Mitsubishi Lancer WRC04. The Italians finished 10th overall, overcoming turbo problems in the second leg to claim points in only their second outing with the team. While the pair did not compete in the Cyprus Rally, they nevertheless completed the recce and Gigi joined the team over the weekend to further understand the car-breaking nature of the rough roads frequently found on these Mediterranean events.

"I am really pleased to be driving in Turkey; it was a bit of a surprise but a very good one!" said Gigi. "Turkey, I'm sure, will have better road conditions than Sardinia and Cyprus, but I really hope the organizers have made more improvements to the stages since last year. But, we have to wait until the recce to see. It was very useful for me to see the conditions in Cyprus, but Turkey will be different; faster and not so rough I'm absolutely sure. I haven't spoken to the team yet about our strategy; I think maybe we will decide once the recce is over. But I want to go into the rally positively and with the thought that a top five position is where I will finish. I feel this is another good opportunity for me and I hope to do a good job and have no problems".

Adding to the drivers' comments, Technical Director Mario Fornaris said: "Our test the week before the rally was good and generally we were tuning the car for the conditions we will find in Turkey and Greece. I believe we have improved the dampers with a couple of new parts, and although the conditions in Turkey will be slightly different, our test road was representative of what we're expecting to find so I'm definitely feeling more confident going into this rally. We also did extensive testing with two different evolutions of Pirelli's XR tire and generally speaking I'm happier that we have done more testing in these rougher conditions".

Isao Torii, Head of Mitsubishi Motor Sports said: "I think we have a strong team in Harri and Gigi for this rally. We went into Cyprus with the goal of achieving a top five placing and with both cars in the points in the Manufacturers' Championship. We achieved that on an extremely tough and demanding event. For Turkey, I would like to see us reach the end of the rally without major technical problems to give the drivers the opportunity to show their true speed. Gigi, in particular, has had bad luck in his last few events, but I believe that if we can overcome such issues, we will naturally get a good result with both crews. I am confident we can make better positions once again in Turkey".

The event kicks off on Thursday evening with a ceremonial start in Kemer, but the action opens on the morning of Friday June 3 with the first of eight special stages, all based around the central service area in Kemer. The route takes in 148.14 competitive kilometers and is rounded off with the first run around the new 2.6 kilometer super special stage in Antalya. On Saturday (June 4), another seven stages lay in wait over the longest leg of the event, at 150.49 competitive kilometers, which again finishes with two laps around the super special stage. Sunday's closing leg is by far the shortest, with just two stages and 49.80 competitive kilometers. The final stage is however the longest of the event at 33.35 kilometers and promises to provide a thrilling finale to this year's Rally of Turkey. In total, the event takes in 17 special stages and 348.43 competitive kilometers in a total distance of 1,228.94 kilometers before the finish in Kemer at 12:55 hrs (local).

2005 FIA Production Car World Rally Championship (Round 4/8)


Nineteen PWRC entrants to battle it out on the Rally of Turkey
Twenty-three Mitsubishi Lancer Evolutions entered in the event

In the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship, competition will be blistering. Car-breaking roads undermined Spaniard Xavier Pons' chances on the Cyprus Rally, but he remains confident that his Lancer Evolution is capable of taking on his rivals in Turkey and that he can build on his second place in the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship standings.

"Cyprus was disappointing of course, but I think it was good training for Turkey", said Pons. "This rally will be faster and maybe nicer to drive, but we must be careful all the time, because it will also be rough. It's important to score some points and that is not so easy. There is a lot of opposition".

Japan's Fumio Nutahara has climbed to sixth in the Championship table after a series of good results in his Lancer Evolution, but he is in no danger of underestimating the challenge Turkey poses.

"Like Cyprus, this will be another new rally for me, so I do not know what to expect", he said. "I think it will be not so different, but maybe not so hard for the car. The most important thing is to try to finish. On these rallies, you must always look after the car".

Argentinean Lancer Evolution driver Federico Villagra has not had much luck this season, but his speed has made him one of the drivers to watch.

"I think we could have had a good result in Cyprus, so if things go well, maybe we can get a good finish in Turkey, but World Championship rallies are long and quite rough, so you can never be sure", Villagra said.

Registered PWRC Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution crews also include Italians Angelo Medeghini and Ricardo Errani, Britain's Natalie Barratt, and Chile's Luis Rosselot. The Lancer Evolution's formidable record has also made it a popular choice with privateers and they feature prominently on the entry list. Among the drivers who could make an impact is rising Austrian star Andreas Aigner, who has been rallying less than a year and finished a fine fifth overall in Group N in Cyprus.


Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Harri Rovanpera , Risto Pietilainen , Gianluigi Galli , Guido D'Amore , Fumio Nutahara , Xavier Pons , Angelo Medeghini , Federico Villagra , Andreas Aigner , Natalie Barratt