WRC

Rally of Turkey: Round seven preview

Turkey now follows the Acropolis Rally earlier this month. Beginning on Thursday 24 June, the seventh round of the FIA World Rally Championship will be the last of a trio of rough, gravel rallies held throughout May and June. Presenting crews...

Turkey now follows the Acropolis Rally earlier this month. Beginning on Thursday 24 June, the seventh round of the FIA World Rally Championship will be the last of a trio of rough, gravel rallies held throughout May and June.

Presenting crews with a series of twisty, rock-strewn tests run high in the Anatolian Mountains, the event's terrain should have a familiar feel. The challenging stages will be similar to those used in the preceding Mediterranean events of Greece and Cyprus, while the event's twisty nature is expected to make it one of the slowest rallies of the year. In 2003 cars recorded average speeds of just 77kph, compared to 67kph in Cyprus, and 82kph in Greece.

Making its second consecutive appearance in the WRC calendar, the 2004 Rally of Turkey will once again be based around the town of Kemer, 40km south of the holiday resort of Antalya. While the route remains similar, a calendar shift from February to June will mean this year's event is likely to be hot and dry, with temperatures in excess of 30°C. This will be in marked contrast to 2003 when the event was held in late winter and unusually heavy rainstorms damaged some of the stages.

Beginning with a ceremonial start on Thursday 24 June in Antalya, followed by a 2.5km sprint around the Efes Pilsen Super Special Stage, the rally starts in earnest on Friday 25 June at 0715hrs. The three-day event will be contested over 17 rough gravel stages, covering a total of 383.33 competitive kilometres. The longest test, the Kumluca stage at 36.10km, will be used for SS9 and SS11, while the shortest, the twisty Efes Pilsen Super Special at 2.5km, will be used for SS1 and SS7. The winning car is expected to cross the finish ramp in Kemer at 1431hrs on Sunday 27 June.

Citroen

Citroën's Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and Carlos Sainz/Marc Marti travel to Antalya for the Rally of Turkey, seventh showdown of the 2004 FIA World Rally Championship. Last year's event passed off perfectly for Carlos Sainz who succeeded in giving the Xsara WRC its first non-asphalt victory at world level. The final stopover of what is being termed the 2004 championship's Mediterranean trilogy, the Rally of Turkey could also turn out to be the toughest of these three events.

Sébastien Loeb / Daniel Elena: "I don't believe that my presence in 2002, which amounted to recce plus five stages driving a Saxo Challenge, gave me a decisive advantage. Similarly, the fact that I didn't cover all the stages competitively last year is not an insurmountable handicap. I hadn't previously competed in the final day's stages in Greece but that didn't stop me from being quick. The main thing is to have good notes. The question is whether Turkey will be similar to what I found in September 2002, which wasn't that rough, or will it be the minefield we faced in February 2003? It will probably be a blend of the two, and that will make it new for everyone."

Carlos Sainz / Marc Marti: "With Turkey taking place four months later, we should logically benefit from warmer weather than last year. In fact it could be extremely hot, in which case it will be a punishing event for both the crews and the cars. If I had to compare this rally with the two others, I would say that it's between Greece and Cyprus, both in terms of its challenge and car set-up. Of the three, my favourites are Greece and Turkey! Greece because I scored my first ever WRC win there in 1990, and Turkey because we won there last year! I like Cyprus less. The conditions there were not good this year. The roads hadn't been re-graded and we found the stages in the same state as we had left them in 2003!"

Ford

Ford BP Rallye Sport is preparing for what it believes will be its toughest event of the season when the FIA World Rally Championship heads into the harsh environment of southern Turkey. Although this will be Turkey's second championship appearance, in many ways it will be a step into the unknown for the Ford BP team and drivers Markko Märtin and Michael Park and team-mates François Duval and Stéphane Prévot. Last year's rally was in early March when the region was emerging from severe winter storms that devastated the mountain roads. Conditions will be totally different this year when the event will be in the height of summer with temperatures in the coastal resort and rally base of Kemer currently at 35°C.

Markko Martin / Michael Park: "I'm approaching the event as I would do for a new rally," he said. "Conditions last year were wet and muddy with snow patches in some places. They were nothing like we can expect this year so it's like preparing for an unknown rally. There won't be such a big difference to the pace notes but the areas that are going to change totally are the set-up I'll use on the car and the importance of cooling. The roads aren't as twisty as those in Cyprus but they do have similar characteristics. There are more open sections in Turkey where you can drive flat out. Like the other two hot gravel rallies, the start order on the opening day is important because there will be loose gravel on the surface which is a big handicap for the first cars. I'll start third which gives me an advantage over the two drivers ahead of me in the order and the championship. But I don't think we'll know what the best start position could be until we see the roads on the recce," added Märtin.

Francios Duval / Stefan Prevot: "It was a difficult rally because it was my first time together with Stéphane but the result was fantastic. This year should be easier in some ways, but just as difficult in others because it will be very hot and tough for both drivers and cars," he said. "Road conditions will be different too and maybe that will mean some big changes to my pace notes. Last year we had ice marked in some areas and I don't think we're going to need that this time! The roads are quite narrow and when you find big stones on the inside of corners or in the middle of the track, there's not a lot of room to avoid them. Another podium finish would be perfect for me. The roads will be rough but the Focus is a strong car and I think it's possible to finish in the top three again," added Duval, who is equal fifth in the championship.

Peugeot

The two most recent rounds of the 2004 FIA World Rally Championship that took place in Cyprus and Greece were not particularly happy events for Marcus Grönholm and his 307 WRC. But that has only served to strengthen the resolve of everyone at Peugeot Sport as the team turns its attention to the Rally of Turkey where its objective is crystal clear: to throw all its strength into the forthcoming fixtures with a view to getting back into the title chase.

Marcus Gronhölm / Timo Rautiainen: "The last two rallies were nightmares as far as I am concerned," admits the two-times World Champion. "Immediately after Cyprus, I was leading the World Championship before having my win taken away from me which dropped me to 4th in the Drivers' standings. That wasn't a nice experience! I've only got myself to blame though for my off in Greece. I was probably over eager to make up lost ground in the championship as quickly as possible."

Harri Rovanperä / Risto Pietiläinen: "We have worked hard to prepare for Turkey and our recent results show the progress we have made over recent weeks. I am confident we can do well but it promises to be a very difficult rally. The chances are that it will be extremely hot, unlike last year, and that will put a different face on it. We will have to be strong and consistent over the three days," he warns.

Subaru

The Subaru World Rally Team will enter two cars in the Rally of Turkey, which will be driven by Petter Solberg (co-driven by Phil Mills) and Mikko Hirvonen (co-driven by Jarmo Lehtinen). With only limited knowledge of the Turkish rally, both Petter and Mikko will be drawing on their experience of other rough gravel events, such as Cyprus and Greece.

Petter Solberg / Phil Mills: Winning Greece was very, very good, let me tell you, but I focused on Turkey straight away and started planning for the event with my engineer the next day. I was very pleased with the victory, but you can't live on a win for long and you have to be focused on the future. I think I learned something from Greece, so I'm feeling in good form right now. I will definitely try to go quicker in Turkey, but the fact that I don't have much experience of this event is a minus for me. I went out on the first day last year, so I haven't driven all the stages competitively before. That's why the new re-entry system is a good idea. I think it worked well in Greece and it's good for the manufacturers - I just hope I don't ever have to use it myself!"

Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen: "I felt that my confidence increased throughout the Greece event, and my speed definitely improved. I'm now much closer to those drivers ahead of me. I had some bad luck on the Saturday, but it was still a good rally and my plan is to now concentrate on driving faster, rather than spending too much time thinking about my driving style. I'm going to get in the car and see what I can do. Having contested two rough gravel events in the Subaru, I now have more confidence handling the car over rough terrain and understand the set-up far more. Things are getting better all the time. In Turkey I'm going to try and find the speed I had on Friday in Greece and maintain it throughout the whole rally. I only have very limited experience of the event, and it's going to be even hotter than it was in Greece and Cyprus with lots of dust. It should be hard for both the drivers and the cars, but I'm looking forward to it."

Mitsubishi

The Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports WRC team heads into completely new territory when it contests the Rally of Turkey. Only introduced to the series last year, during the time when Mitsubishi was restructuring its motor sport operation, this eastern Mediterranean gravel rally will pose a fresh and exciting challenge for registered crews Gilles Panizzi/Herve Panizzi and "Gigi" Galli/Guido D'Amore.

Gilles Panizzi / Herve Panizzi: "It's a rally I like and the conditions are maybe something between Cyprus and Greece," commented Gilles. "It is the third rough gravel event and it will be difficult for us again with the suspension, but the nature of the stages is nice and we have a small evolution for the set-up. Last year it was run in the very early part of the season and although the region had had bad weather, during the event itself it was very nice. But this year I think we will see temperatures being maybe 20 to 25 degrees more and for sure this will make it very difficult. My strategy will be very similar to Greece though; I try to push when I can but look after the car and see what happens around us," added Gilles. "In Greece I think it was possible to compete for the fifth position so my plan is to drive at the same level and try to do the maximum for myself and the team."

Gigi Galli / Guido D'Amore: "My goal is to make the kilometers to improve our performance and give the team more information for the development and preparation for next year; this is mportant."

-fia/wrc-

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Series WRC
Teams Citroën World Rally Team