WRC

Rally of Turkey: Round seven preview

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...

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.

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.

Citroen

Citroen has gone back to the for the Turkish round of the world rally Championship that starts in Antalya on 2 June with the Citroen's team made up of last year's Rally of Turkey winner, Sebastien Loeb, and the return to the team of rally's inaugural victor, Carlos Sainz, as Citroen battles to make its bid to retain it manufacturer's title as successful as Sebastien Loeb's title defence. Competing for the first time this year, Carlos Sainz will benefit from a much more favourable start position. The Spaniard will effectively start the 195th WRC outing of his sparkling career in around fifteenth place, a position to which he is not accustomed but which should ensure he has a perfectly clear surface. This could help compensate for his initial lack of match form - his last drive in a WRC car was seven months ago - and help him emerge in an early provisional points scoring position in keeping with the wishes of Guy Frequelin: "I'll take however many Manufacturers' points Carlos brings us!"

Sebastien Loeb / Daniel Elena: "The positive side is that it proves I'm leading the championship. And we have won before after running first on the road on Day 1," says Sebastien Loeb. "Last year, the heavy rain that fell before the start meant that being first on the road wasn't such a handicap. It's by no means certain that we will find the same conditions this year. I will be looking of course to keep up my recent winning momentum and we have already won rallies in the past despite being first into the stages on Day 1. Even so, I think it will be a case of trying to lose as little ground as possible to begin with. We will see where we stand when there's no more road sweeping to be done and we will know at that point what sort of result we can aim for."

Carlos Sainz / Marc Marti:

Fate prevented you from starting what was to be your last rally in Australia in 2004 and now fate has handed you another chance! "Funny, isn't it? I don't know how much fate has got to do with it, but it's true that the circumstances are somewhat special! After failing to start Rally Australia, it looked as though my last rally would be Catalonia But that's another story. Guy [Frequelin] found himself in a delicate position. He talked to me about it and a quick decision had to be taken in view of the short timeframe available. As far as I am concerned, I had to talk it over with my family before giving Guy an answer. But given everything that Citroen brought me during our two seasons together, I didn't imagine for an instant that I would refuse! But as I have said, I am back for the Rally of Turkey only. This is not a comeback to World Championship rallying."

How do you feel at the prospect of finding yourself back in a WRC car, back in the Citroen team and back in Turkey? "If I commit to something, my commitment is always total. And being part of such a motivated team will be a big help. I am delighted to see everyone again, and I think that works both ways. That's something I saw when I paid the team a brief visit on the Friday during the Monte Carlo Rally As far as the Rally of Turkey is concerned, I have some fond and not so fond memories. In 2003, Marc [Marti] and I gave the Xsara WRC its first win on the loose there. It was also our first win with Citroen and it was really a nice moment. Last year's rally was a little tougher, mostly because I was poorly over the weekend. Today I'm just looking forward to getting back into the car, to driving and to trying the evolutions and new tyres about which I have heard so much"

Subaru

The Subaru World Rally Team will be entering two cars in the Rally of Turkey, to be driven by Petter Solberg (co-driven by Phil Mills) and Chris Atkinson (co-driven by Glenn MacNeall). Stephane Sarrazin and co-driver Denis Giraudet will complete the recce to gain experience of the event. Last year in Turkey Petter finished third - just beaten to second place by Marcus Gronholm after a thrilling final Leg battle. Aboard his Subaru Impreza WRC2005, Petter will be seeking to secure another podium finish this year. His team-mate Chris Atkinson has not contested the event before. Making only his sixth competitive outing in a WRC car, the Australian will be aiming to gain experience of both his Impreza and the event.

Petter Solberg / Phil Mills: "We need some luck now and for things to work out well for us. We didn't have such a good event in Cyprus, but Turkey is a rally that I like a lot. We had some problems there last year and were unlucky with the watersplash, but now I'm ready to fight back. It will be a tough event, but the team has been working really hard with the car since Cyprus. Now I'm ready to get back behind the wheel and start the event."

Chris Atkinson/Glen Macneall: "After a couple of results that have not been so good, I'm looking forward to this event and to getting out on the stages. We've learned that we can drive the car at a safe pace on rough gravel roads and now I'd like to pick up the speed. I know the car can handle it, so it's time for me to move things forward a little bit and that's what I'll be looking to do in Turkey."

Ford

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.

Toni Gardemeister / Jakke Honkanen: 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.

Roman Kresta / Jan Mozny: "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.

Peugeot

After stopovers in Sardinia and Cyprus, and before the current Mediterranean tour concludes in Greece, Turkey will host the seventh of the sixteen-round 2005 World Rally Championship. Peugeot has finished both Rally Turkeys to be organised as WRC qualifiers to date with a car on the podium and will again be out to score maximum points to consolidate its position as leader of the provisional Manufacturers' standings. Marcus Gronholm, who finished 2nd here last year, and Markko Martin, who has been in extremely consistent form since the beginning of the season, will be the team's men of the moment. Peugeot Sport will once again throw all its strength into the upcoming battle in a bid to secure its first victory of the year. An outright win would effectively be a welcome result for the French team which has so far proved particularly consistent, with six top-three finishes to its name since the start of the year, but which hasn't yet succeeded in climbing onto the highest step of the podium. "The positive aspect of the first third of the season is without the shadow of a doubt the reliability of our car," underlines Peugeot Sport's Director Jean-Pierre Nicolas. "However, we've still got work on our plates with our partner Pirelli to optimise the tyre factor on the performance front."

Marcus Gronholm / Timo Rautiainen: "It's not my favourite type of rally but the organisers did a really good job last year in producing a smoother route than Cyprus," commented the two-times World Champion. "I was pretty unlucky last year. Let's hope it will be different this time round. I know it will be very difficult but we will see."

Markko Martin / Michael Park: "It's a tough event on the cars. My priority will be to reach the finish to score as many points as possible. I know I will be able to count on the reliability of the 307 WRC and I really want to help my team fight for the Manufacturers' title. That's important, so I am pleased with the results I have scored since the beginning of the season. I would naturally like to progress performance-wise though and our engineers are working very hard to adapt the car's handling to my driving style,"

Mitsubishi

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 Rovanpera and Risto Pietilainen 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.

Harri Rovanpera / Risto Pietilainen: "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".

Gigi Galli / Guido D'Amore: "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".

Skoda

The ©koda Motorsport World Rally Team travels north from Cyprus for the seventh round of the World Rally Championship, the Rally of Turkey (June 2-5) where the Fabia WRC 05 will again be driven by Armin Schwarz/Klaus Wicha and Janne Tuohino/Mikko Markkula. Turkey is a completely new event for the Fabia WRC 05 as it was not on the team's schedule last season. Janne finished seventh on this event last year but it will be Armin's first visit to the rally in the area of the world once known as Asia Minor.

Janne Tuohino / Mikko Markkula: Turkey is something between Cyprus and Greece so I think we know what to expect when we get there. We had a good test session in Greece after Cyprus and we found some new things in the set-up for this type of event."

Armin Schwarz / Klaus Wicha: "I really won't know exactly what to expect until I start the recce. I think the roads are smoother than Cyprus but sometimes rougher than the Acropolis so I hope that our car's good handling on these type of roads will benefit us."

Event Statistics

The Rally of Turkey - known as the Anatolian Rally from 2000 until 2002 - first qualified as a round of the World Rally Championship in 2003.

- The time difference between Turkey (GMT +3) and Continental European (GMT +2) is 1 hour to be subtracted from the times listed below to obtain Continental European time.

- The city of Antalya will host both the start ceremony and the super special. The single service park is based in Kemer, a seaside resort located 40 km to the south. The stages are held in the foothills of the Beydaglari Mountains inland of Kemer.

- The total length of the 2005 event is 1,183.54 km, including 348.43 km divided into 17 stages (9 different).

- Recce is scheduled for Tuesday May 31st (from 09:15 until 18:00) and Wednesday June 1st (07:00 until 19:15). Six of the nine different stages were run in 2004 and two in 2003. The 'Kemer' stage is the only new test, although it was run in the opposite direction last year.

- The 3 km shakedown stage near Kemer is the same as that employed in 2004.

- The start ceremony takes place in Cumhuriyet Square, Antalya (19:00, Thursday June 2nd).

- The Antalya super special (SS1) initially programmed directly after the start has been cancelled. The rally will therefore start on the Friday from the Kemer service park. The first stage will therefore be SS2.

- Tyres: two types of pattern are authorised. On May 25th, the teams communicated the 75 barcode references corresponding to their drivers' individual choices. In the course of the rally, drivers may use 45 tyres from their quota.

-rallyenewsletter-

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Series WRC
Teams Citroën World Rally Team