Rally Turkey: Hyundai leg one summary

Schwarz sets Hyundai pace in Turkey. Hyundai World Rally Team crews Armin Schwarz/Manfred Hiemer and Freddy Loix/Sven Smeets made an excellent start to their first Rally of Turkey, the third round of the 2003 FIA World Rally Championship,...

Schwarz sets Hyundai pace in Turkey.

Hyundai World Rally Team crews Armin Schwarz/Manfred Hiemer and Freddy Loix/Sven Smeets made an excellent start to their first Rally of Turkey, the third round of the 2003 FIA World Rally Championship, bringing their Accent WRC"s to overnight parc ferme in eighth and ninth positions overall respectively.

Armin Schwarz and Manfred Hiemer set a blistering pace on leg one rewarding them with second place overall by the end of special stage four. Armin began the day carefully, knowing the rough conditions would be challenging, but on the longer stages of the morning - SS2 and SS3 - he managed to set fourth and second fastest times respectively, promoting his Hyundai Accent WRC" from 12th to second position overall. Unfortunately Armin did not escape the potential threat of the rocks and reached the end of the fourth stage with damage to the exhaust, also forcing him and co-driver Manfred to inhale fumes en route to the finish.

Armin explained, "The cars in front of us are causing the road to become badly rutted pulling up rocks which means there are quite a few surprises. You actually have no choice most of the time but to go over the top of them, which is where the danger arises of damaging something. We damaged the exhaust which caused fumes in the car - a bit like Rally GB last year although nowhere near as bad - so I had to slow down a bit. My eyes were watering a bit but I was ok."

Hyundai World Rally Team mechanics changed the main part of the exhaust which goes over the sub-frame, a job which was so big it forced the crew to incur a 20-second penalty for leaving service two minutes late.

"I was driving at the maximum - the stages here are different but interesting. This morning felt good but it was more difficult on the last two stages. As we had so much work to do in service we couldn't change the front shock absorbers and they were really getting tired during SS5 and SS6. At one point in stage five we had to go up the bank just to get around a huge rock that was in the road. At least the last stage was cleaner the second time through it," explained the 38-year-old German.

Belgian team-mates Freddy Loix and Sven Smeets picked up their pace throughout the day. Changes to the suspension set-up during service gave way to a seventh fastest stage time in SS4 promoting the pair to ninth place, and a fifth fastest stage time in SS5 ensured they held position.

Freddy described his day, "The dampers went off this morning about 10km before the end of SS4 and to be honest we struggled to get to the end as it was incredibly rough. But we made some changes to the suspension in service and the handling felt much better during the afternoon. We set better times until SS6 and even though the turbo blew near the end of the stage, we didn't lose too many seconds from it."

News from our rivals

As with all rough events in the championship, the stages in Turkey caused numerous problems for many, with 19 crews sidelined by the end of the leg - almost 30% of the original starters. Ford youngster Mikko Hirvonen drove much of SS3 with an oil leak after a rock damaged the hydraulic oil cooler. He hit another rock in the following stage damaging the suspension beyond repair, forcing him into retirement. Team-mate Markko Martin (Ford) struggled during stages three and four during which he could only select first and second gears. All hopes of victory expired for Petter Solberg (Subaru) who also retired with a broken suspension after a rock damaged a track rod 3km into SS4. Reigning World Champion Marcus Gronholm (Peugeot) experienced power steering problems throughout the day; team-mate Richard Burns experienced punctures on the first set of stages and Jusso Pykalisto rolled on SS3 losing four minutes and was unable to set any real competitive times through the remainder of the day. Toni Gardemeister only had one puncture but his team-mate Didier Auriol experienced engine cooling problems throughout the day and his engine finally gave up only 2km before final service. A surprise retirement was Sebastien Loeb (Citroën) who took a wrong route on the road section to SS4 and after retracing his tracks, the Frenchman did not have enough petrol to reach the refuel point and had to retire.

At the head of the leaderboard Finnish gravel expert Harri Rovanpera (Peugeot) leads Carlos Sainz (Citroën) by 20.7 seconds. Ford young gun Francois Duval lies 8.8 seconds further adrift in third with Tommi Makinen (Subaru) and Gilles Panizzi (Peugeot) in fourth and fifth respectively.

The Rally
Leg two of the rally is by far the longest of the event with crews leaving par ferme at 06:00hrs. Once again crews head into the rough stages of the Anatolian Mountains which rise steeply to the west of Kemer, home to the single service park for the rally, to cover 158.52 competitive kilometres over seven special stages before reaching overnight parc ferme at 18:24hrs.


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Series WRC
Teams Citroën World Rally Team