The Event 3-5 June 2005 Next week the Subaru World Rally Team will return to the Mediterranean for the start of the seventh round of the 16-event 2005 FIA World Rally Championship, the Rally of Turkey. Beginning on Friday 3 June, the event will...
3-5 June 2005
Next week the Subaru World Rally Team will return to the Mediterranean for the start of the seventh round of the 16-event 2005 FIA World Rally Championship, the Rally of Turkey. Beginning on Friday 3 June, the event will be the second of a trio of rough, gravel rallies held throughout May and June.
The event's harsh terrain should have a familiar feel. Run in the Anatolian mountains over a variety of broken gravel roads, the stages will be similar to those used in the preceding event in Cyprus. Twisty, rough and rock-strewn tracks make it one of the slower rallies of the year; in 2004 cars recorded average speeds of 80.1kph in Turkey, compared to 65.6kph in Cyprus and 81.2kph in Greece.
This will be the Rally's third appearance in the FIA WRC calendar and the second time that it will be held in the height of Summer. Temperatures are expected to be similar to 2004 when a date shift from February to June meant they were in excess of 35C, although rainfall in the mountains remains a possibility. Last year damp conditions dominated Leg one, while in 2003 the event was almost cancelled when unusually heavy rains badly damaged the mountain roads.
Beginning in Antalya with a ceremonial start on Thursday 2 June, the rally will start in earnest on Friday 3 June at 0610rs. The three-day event will be based in the costal resort of Kemer and will be contested over 18 rough gravel stages and a total competitive distance of 348.43 kilometres. The longest test will be the Olympos at 33.35km, which will be used as the last stage of the event, while the shortest, the Efes Pilsen Super Special at 2.5km, will be used twice. The winning car is expected to cross the finish ramp in Kemer at 1255hrs on Sunday 5 June.
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: "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:"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."
The Car / The Challenge
Subaru World Rally Team Principal, David Lapworth: "Even though the ambient temperature is expected to be a couple of degrees higher in Turkey than it was in Cyprus, the average speeds are also higher meaning the event is slightly easier on the cars' cooling systems. The stages are a bit of a mixture; some are run at sea level, while others are 1500 metres above sea level. The high stages make things a bit easier for the drivers, as the air temperature is a bit cooler. However, it doesn't help the car very much because as the air gets thinner, it loses its cooling effect and that compensates for the lower temperatures. That means that, on the higher stages, the event will be almost as demanding for the brakes and engines, as in Cyprus.
Although the rally route is not as twisty as the one in Cyprus, the speed still drops below 60kph in some sections. It's still a relatively new event, so we won't know the condition of the stages until we've completed the recce, but I wouldn't expect it to be as rough and rutted as Cyprus. Surprisingly, a feature that's affected this event in the last couple of years has been rain. You wouldn't have expected it looking at the statistics, but there were heavy showers before the start of the 2004 event, even though it was held in mid-summer.
If it's warm and dry this year, as expected, it will be hard on the tyres, but perhaps not as hard as it was in Cyprus. The repeated stages in New Zealand and Sardinia showed that Michelin have made a big step forward in this area recently, but Pirelli have been working hard to improve the situation. Although we tested some of the new tyres before Cyprus, Petter's early exit from the event didn't really give us a chance to see what they were capable of. Pirelli has another tyre variation for Turkey, and it'll be interesting to see how they perform. Most rallies now repeat the morning stages in the afternoon. In New Zealand and Sardinia, the first loop of stages featured sand and loose gravel, which Pirelli was competitive on. However, in the afternoon when the roads were clean and hard, Michelin had the edge. It's a difficult situation due to the testing regulations. We're not allowed to test outside Europe, so we won't know how good the tyres are until the start of the event.
Looking to the drivers, this is definitely an event that Petter can win. The terrain suits his style of driving, it's traditionally been good for Pirelli and we've got a good record on rough events. Chris leaned a hell of a lot in Cyprus and that will be good for him. One of the hardest things as a young driver is to know how hard you can push the car on rough gravel. It's difficult, no matter how talented you are, to look at a piece of rough road and know exactly how much the car can take. Before this year, Chris had only driven Group N cars, which have to be driven more sympathetically than a WRC car. However, while a WRC car can take an unbelievable amount of punishment, they're not indestructible. Judging that fine line is part of the skill and Chris is much better equipped to deal with that than he was a month ago."
Between the Rallies
Petter Solberg experienced a quieter week than normal as he fought to get over a bout of 'flu. More used to snow scootering, boxing, skiing and a range of other dynamic pursuits, Petter was confined to his bed during his recuperation, something he found a bit boring. After beating off the worst of his illness, he was quickly up and about and on Thursday 26 he travelled to the SWRT HQ in Banbury UK for meetings with team management and engineers.
Wearing the SWRT action man badges this time were Chris Atkinson and Glenn MacNeall. Currently based in the UK, Chris and Glenn challenged members of the Subaru team to a karting endurance race on Monday 23. Despite qualifying in pole position, Chris's team eventually finished second out of the 15 teams, while Glenn was right behind in third. Chris also spent time at a motocross track with some of his technicians and in Wales, where he went mountain biking with Phil Mills, SWRT driver trainer John Mills and a friend of his from New Zealand. Both Chris and Petter will arrive in Turkey on Sunday 29 May, ready for the pre-event recce.