Turkey: A step into the WRC unknown
Turkey’s rough gravel stages will prove challenging
Rally Turkey (13-16 September) will present crews with fresh challenges as they face an ‘all-new’ World Rally Championship round for the first time since Bulgaria made a one-off appearance in 2010.
Returning to the calendar after an eight-year break, next week’s rally is brand new, having moved to Marmaris on the Mediterranean coast.
As we continue our countdown to Thursday’s start, here are some of the unknowns teams and crews will have to get to grips with if they want to be successful at the 10th round of the season.
Crews usually have the luxury of being able to look back at pace notes from previous editions of rallies. They can use these as a starting point from which to make an updated set during the recce. Many drivers also use the onboard videos on WRC+ to help get a feeling for the stages before the recce.
On Turkey’s previously unused stages, that isn’t possible. Instead, crews will glean what they can from videos supplied by organisers. But those clips only offer a limited amount of insight, meaning co-drivers will burn the midnight oil preparing new notes.
Another unknown that can only be explored during the recce is the condition of the roads. While all the teams expect generally rough gravel tracks, no testing was allowed in Turkey, so drivers have no first-hand experience of the stages.
Testing in Portugal, Greece and the south of France will have helped determine set-ups to a point, but crews will only know if they’ve made the right calls at shakedown.
How the roads will stand up to a full field of World Rally Cars is another question. It is not clear how much the surface will deteriorate between repeat loops.
Early forecasts suggest Turkey could be the hottest event of the year so far, with temperatures likely to reach 35°C.
The combination of sweltering heat, rough roads and a number of stages longer than 30km means car management will be key.
Transmissions and engines will be at risk of overheating, so drivers will need to strike a balance between pushing for quick stage times and the need to protect their machinery.
Rough gravel roads and high temperatures inevitably lead to questions about tyre management. There’s no info from previous years on how the tyres will cope on the Turkish roads, so expect a lot of discussions between crews and engineers as they try to determine the correct strategies.
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