The Rally of Turkey is new to the World Rally Championship this year, and a step into the unknown for all the participants. The Škoda Motorsport crews believe that the Škoda Octavia WRC is well-suited to the rough Turkish stages.
The Rally of Turkey takes place on gravel roads around Antalya, in the south of the country, and takes in a wide variety of conditions. The route includes mountainous tracks as well as faster roads on fertile coastal plains. The surfaces are likely to be rough and rocky, putting reliability and strength at a premium.
Škoda Motorsport driver Toni Gardemeister, who regularly ran in the top six on the Rally of Sweden earlier this month, commented: "I think the Rally of Turkey could be good for us. We don’t know a lot about it, so nobody starts at an advantage in terms of experience. I’ve been told that the Rally of Turkey has a lot of slow corners, some medium-speed corners and many rough rocks. That should be good for the Octavia WRC: it is very strong and has traditionally done very well on rough rallies. Personally I prefer faster rallies, but hopefully, we can score a few points – that’s the target."
His team mate Didier Auriol, World Rally Champion of 1994, agrees: "It will be difficult to fight for the win and podium positions, but certainly we can fight for points. I quite like challenging rallies like this with narrow roads, so if I have a good feeling with the car then hopefully we can attack from the start. We have completed about 150 kilometres of gravel testing now, and learnt a lot about some future directions for the car's development. The biggest question mark is that nobody knows a lot about this rally, so it's really quite difficult to make predictions. I have heard that conditions could be difficult though, and in general that tends to be good for us."
Turkey borders seven countries, and is set to be a very popular addition to the World Rally Championship. It is also one of the most historic venues the Championship will ever visit, having forged a reputation as the cradle of civilisation. Two of the Seven Wonders of the World are in Turkey: The Temple of Artemis and the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus.
The weather on the rally might be slightly less miraculous. A huge variety of conditions is possible on the route at this time of year – ranging from thunderstorms to bright sunshine. The unpredictable weather is yet another rogue factor that could make Turkey the most intriguing event of the year.
Škoda Motorsport Team principal Pavel Janeba said: "The Rally of Turkey should be a challenge for everybody in our team. We have completed a good test in Spain, but as we do not know the details of the Turkish stages, there could be some changes to the settings of the car during shakedown. Even though we have competed in the Rally of Turkey in the past, the event will be a big question mark in its new WRC format. We will use Didier Auriol’s experience and the good condition of Toni Gardemeister, who did a very good job in Sweden."
The Rally of Turkey takes place from Thursday February 27 to Sunday March 2. The event consists of 18 stages, totaling a competitive distance of 380 kilometres. The rally uses one single service park at Kemer, which is also where the rally headquarters is based. The ceremonial start takes place at 1800 on Thursday night, and the finish ramp is scheduled for 1545 on Sunday.Published 26 February 2003