The eleventh round of this year’s WRC season is also the greatest challenge for the cars, which will have to cope with the broken rocky and gravel roads of Turkey. The Turkish rally was first held in 1972, but the idea of trying to include it as a WRC round was first suggested in 1999. A brand new rally centred around Izmir was organized and, after being visited by FIA officials, it was made an official back-up WRC round.
In 2001, the event took place in the popular holiday resorts of Antalya and Kemer, in the south-west of Turkey, and it kept its WRC format. It was finally included in the WRC calendar in 2003 and in its first year just 27 out of 62 crews saw the finish line. Rally Turkey then appeared in the WRC seasons of 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2008, and in 2010, when it changed its venue and moved to the north of Istanbul, in the Asian part of Turkey. It didn’t return after that - until last year, when it replaced Rally Poland, which was struggling with safety problems.
The beautiful scenery of south-west Turkey
Scorching heat and challenging tracks in the mountains and on the coast of the Aegean Riviera are extremely tough on both cars and crews. In this rally, the need for clever strategy and problem avoidance far outweighs the need for outright speed.
The competition starts on Thursday with a super special stage in Marmaris. Friday will bring more than half of the rally’s hot kilometres – 161 km, divided into three stages, each run twice. Saturday’s stages are almost identical in character, but they take place to the west of Marmaris. A new addition is the Kizlan test, which concludes both the morning and the afternoon runs. On Saturday, the crews will take on the 118 kilometres of special stages, the most interesting of which is Datca. It may be only 8.75 kilometres long, but what it lacks in length, it more than makes up for in scenery. It winds around the mountainside, and eventually arrives at the coast. On Sunday, the rally will conclude with four short stages, with the final Power Stage finishing right next to the service park’s entrance.
Overheating engines, destroyed tyres
Relatively low speeds mean less airflow, which translates into extreme demands on hot engines and brakes. The rough surface of the tracks, together with the high temperature, means a hard time for the tyres. And, last but not least, the temperatures of over 30 degrees Celsius will make the cockpits of the rally cars absolutely scorching. As in most other gravel rallies, the teams will raise the ride height of their cars before their second runs. Considering the surface, the hard rubber compound will probably be the preferred choice, but even soft tyres can play their strategic role.
ŠKODA Motorsport is entering both works crews at Rally Turkey – Jan Kopecký with co-driver Pavel Dresler and Kalle Rovenerä with Jonne Halttunen. Once again, they will drive the ŠKODA FABIA R5 evo competition cars. There are also ten FABIA R5 private crews on the entry list. Considering that there are 31 crews overall, this makes ŠKODA the best represented brand in Turkey.