The Subaru World Rally Team will start the Rally of Turkey next week, well positioned after claiming Subaru's 41st WRC victory on the Acropolis Rally earlier this month. Beginning on Thursday 24 June, the seventh round of the FIA World Rally ...
The Subaru World Rally Team will start the Rally of Turkey next week, well positioned after claiming Subaru's 41st WRC victory on 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.
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.
"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!"
"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."
The Car / The Challenge
Subaru World Rally Team Principal, David Lapworth
"Although the Rally of Turkey was included in the 2003 Championship, this year will almost be like a new event due to the date change. Last year, Turkey was just coming out of winter and the temperatures were very cool, but with this year's new mid-summer date, we can expect temperatures to be as high as 40°C. The roads will be much drier and dustier, and since testing is not allowed for the non-European rounds, the change will be a particular challenge for the teams.
The overall nature of the event is similar to the previous two rounds of Cyprus and Greece, with relatively low speeds, high temperatures and a hard, rocky road surface that can cause severe tyre wear. Such events have traditionally had a very high rate of attrition and are unpredictable, but Subaru has an impressive record in these types of conditions, which was emphasised by our win in Greece and strong performance in Cyprus. That said, we're expecting everyone to approach the event with a certain amount of caution. If Finland is the rally where we expect drivers to go flat out from the start, then Turkey is the event of the year where we can expect a more careful approach. Petter and Mikko were among a long list of retirements here last year, but the change of date and new nature of the event should mean the handicap is minimised. It's almost like a new event for everyone.
Following Petter's win in Greece, there's no doubting that his Championship is gathering momentum. At this point in the series people might expect that Championship strategy may start to outweigh the desire to win events but, as far as Subaru is concerned, this is not the case. Our primary objective is always to win rallies - we believe that's what the fans want and it's too early in the season to have only the Championship in mind. Looking to the set up of the car and tyre options for Turkey, they will be very similar to what we had in Greece, although we expect the higher temperatures will put a greater stress on the tyres.
Finally, another element that's still new for Turkey is the regulation that allows cars to re-join the rally on Legs 2 and 3. Based on last year's rate of attrition, it's an opportunity that's likely to be used by a number of competitors on this event, as well as providing the fans with the chance to see more cars in the latter stages of the rally. It certainly seems to be a positive thing."
Between the Rallies
It's been an interesting week for reigning World Champion Petter Solberg. Sporting a new look after his head was shaved following his win in Greece, the 29-year-old has appeared on Norwegian TV and in almost every magazine and paper across the country. Everyone in Norway has an opinion on his extreme new appearance, and although his mother and wife Pernilla were initially not keen, they're starting to think it's not so bad. But, good news for them, Petter's hair is starting to grow back already.
Away from rallying and his aerodynamic haircut, Petter has also been in the papers due to the success of his two racehorses, Honduras and Ihla Grande. Cheered on by the Solberg family in the stands, Honduras won a race last week, while Ihla Grande came second in another a few days later.
After spending two days at home after the Acropolis Rally, Mikko flew to Italy to complete a day of testing with Subaru's tyre partner, Pirelli. He then returned to Finland and his parent's house in Kannonkoski. Working with his sister and brother-in-law, the young Finn spent time completing DIY jobs for his parents, including fixing their driveway and smartening up the front footpath. When we caught up with the 23-year-old, he was back in Jyvaskyla and had just returned home after completing a run with his dog, Piku. On the advice of the team's fitness experts, Mikko has been training wearing multiple layers of clothing to help him prepare for the heat of Turkey.
Football Tips from Rally Drivers
With Euro 2004 fever sweeping the continent, Petter and Mikko have been keeping a close eye on events in Portugal. In Finland Mikko has been watching matches with friends and initially supported England, but later changed his mind following their defeat against France. He thinks the sensible man would put his money on France or Turkey to win, but also advised to watch out for the Czech Republic. Meanwhile in Norway Petter is supporting his wife's native Sweden and following their 5-0 win against Bulgaria, he and Pernilla are tipping them for the overall win.