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Turkey (J) - 14-18 Apr 10

Posted: April 21, 2010 1:25 PM - 5497 Hits

Round 4 - 2010 World Rally Championship
J – Junior Championship

Breen & Roberts flying high in Turkey
Photo: Les Kolczak

Fiesta S2000 propels Dutchman into the points

Posted: April 21, 2010 1:25 PM

Dennis Kuipers (24) is the first Dutch driver since 1995 to score WRC driver points in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) this weekend in his Ford Fiesta Super 2000, finishing in a credible ninth position overall and winner of Group N and the S2000 category.  

Thousands of enthusiastic fans flocked to the historic Sultanahment Square in the centre of Istanbul on Thursday evening to watch the Ceremonial Start of the sixth Rally Turkey. Several Turkish Government officials, including the State Minister for Sport, were in attendance before the drivers returned by ferry across the Bosphorus Strait to Rally HQ in Pendik.  

The newly located event based in the Asian side of Istanbul included 354 km of competitive stage distance over 23 speed tests. The special stages varied from fast, wide and smooth to tight, twisty and rough; but the predominantly gravel route contained almost 50 km of asphalt.  

Day 1 consisted of a series of nine short stages over 98.43 km and Dutchman Dennis Kuipers, who was contesting his first event of an eight round campaign, encountered no major difficulties, proving that he was getting to grips with the S2000 rally car. The young Dutchman finished the day in 14th position overall, leading the S2000 class.               

Competing alongside Kuipers and his Belgian co-driver Fred Miclotte was Yağız Avcı, the reigning Turkish Rally champion who was flying the flag for Castrol Ford Team Türkiye.  The 26-year-old has an excellent track record in the Turkish Rally Championship, but struggled with intercom problems on the opening stage, resulting in the Turk missing apacenote and damaging the left rear suspension. Despite this, he was able to nurse his car to the end of the opening stage, where he was then forced to retire after assessing the damage to his S2000.  

The second full day started in sunny conditions approximately 60 km north of Rally HQ, where 37 of the 40 original entrants tackled two 72.91 km loops of competitive stage distance. This was the toughest of the three-day event as it included the longest stage of the rally and six of the eight tests contained both gravel and asphalt surfaces.  

Yağız Avcı returned to the rally on Day 2 under SupeRally regulations where he went on to produce some impressive times in the rally’s toughest stages. The Turkish champion reported slight difficulties with the handbrake on hairpins, so the rear differential release was bled during the morning service.  

Kuipers struggled with the slippery surfaces that resulted from the rain on Stage 11, but his pace gradually increased as he settled into driving the Ford Fiesta S2000 and, after a good performance in Stage 13, the longest stage in the rally, the 24-year-old moved up into an impressive tenth position.  

A heavy downpour of rain on Saturday evening meant that the first two stages of Day 3 comprising of 38.08 km of stages were cancelled due to extremely muddy conditions. Kuipers and Avci produced a series of quick times in the one remaining morning stage of 19.22 km.  

Stage 21 was to throw in a bit of a wildcard for Kuipers, who hit Dani Sordo’s car, which had stopped on the side of the stage.  The Dutchman clipped the stranded Citroen and damaged the front bumper and wing of his S2000.  He lost no time as a result and went on to finish in a deserving ninth position overall, the first finisher in a non-WRC car.  Avci had no such issues, setting a storming time on Stage 22 as the fastest driver not in a WRC car.  He completed the rally in 28th position overall and is currently leading the Turkish Rally Championship.  

Dennis Kuipers said:
“It has been very hard today, especially the last stage.  I was a bit worried when I clipped Dani [Sordo’s car] in Stage 21, as I thought I had damaged my car; fortunately it didn’t lose me any time. I am really pleased with my overall result and the [Ford Fiesta] Super 2000 is a fantastic car.  Everything went really well – I’m delighted.”  

Yağız Avcı said:
“In the first day we made a pacenote mistake, which was very annoying, but the other two days were very nice.  For us, each day counts as a separate championship in Turkey and I won the last two days in the national category, so I am very happy with that. I was very confident driving the car, it is very easy to drive and the Fiesta Super 2000 has so much potential.  I think M-Sport has done a very good job with the cars – I am very happy with my results.”  

M-Sport Managing Director Malcolm Wilson said:
“The success of this particular car driven in Turkey by Dennis [Kuipers] is so impressive – it’s won in Monte Carlo, Mexico, Jordan and has now taken the S2000 victory in Turkey. Dennis had very little experience of driving the Ford Fiesta Super 2000 before Turkey so it’s remarkable that he’s managed to finished today in ninth position overall.”

Voyage of Emotion for Breen on World Rally Turkey

Posted: April 21, 2010 11:53 AM

First WRC Rally of the year for Craig, return to the Fiesta ST that brought him so much last season, FSTi lead on day one, mechanical failure during Saturday’s stages and his highest World Rally result by Sunday afternoon just scratches the surface of emotions as Craig Breen makes his first World Rally outing of the year. “I have reached new heights this weekend, my best result at world level finishing 22nd overall but here now on Sunday evening there’s still a feeling of what could have been”. Breen stated at the rally finish in Istanbul on Sunday evening. He then went on to say “Over the three days both I and Gareth have gone through every emotion possible, we were delighted to return to the world championship after taking part in four events last season. I made the perfect start on Friday, was on the pace from the start and it was great to hold the over night lead in the FSTi series, Saturday was a totally different ball game. We again got off to a great start by extending our lead but by the midday service my car required a gearbox change. With this completed I taught my luck was in this weekend. Then only two hours later we were left on the side of the road looking at superally after rear axle failure. I had dropped from 16th place to 24th and was very despondent, now after completing Sunday stages and finishing 22nd overall I’ve recorded my best result at world level and I know this is the place to be. I would like to thank everyone who was involved in making this possible”.

The voyage got under way on Friday morning and Breen driving the Castrol Team Türkiye Ford Fiesta ST in a one off drive got off to the perfect start by setting 11:17, the fastest time on the opening stage (Darlik 1, 15.66km), Castrol Team Türkiye team mate Orhan Avcioglu was next best with 11:18.3 and Harry Hunt in third with 11:22.5

On stage two, Craig suffered a delay as he was required to stop when Peter Horsey crashed out and his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X caught fire, Craig was credited with 5:56.3 for the stage and at this time was in 24th overall, leading the FSTi field and class N3. Next was the 13.52 km Bozgoca stage, Craig set his third fastest stage time with 9:26.8 and he then rounded off the morning loop by extending his lead on stage four. As the FSTi crews entered first service Craig had moved up to 23rd overall and held a 14 second lead over Orhan Avcioglu who was 25th overall and Harry Hunt completing the top three in the FSTi series and 26th overall.

Stage five started the repeat of the morning loop and saw Breen show even more dominance, he was again fastest on Darlik 2, taking 9 seconds from Victor Henriksson who was second quickest over the 15.66km. Orhan Avcioglu in his R2 moved into second place with Harry Hunt now in third. Craig and Gareth then moved up to 22nd overall on stage six (Karabeyli 2) with yet another fastest time in the series, setting 5:20 for the 8.23km. Bozgoca 2 and Breen cut 16 second off his first run and extended his advantage to 50 seconds over Harry Hunt who had jumped to second place as Orhan Avcioglu dropped over a minute on stage six. The penultimate stage of the day Halli 2 and Breen cut 7 second off his first run through the test to consolidate his position and underline his grip on the lead.

With only the Istanbul super special to go Craig had a 1 minute 10 second lead and he then pulled out another 9 seconds on that final stage putting him 19th overall and 1 minute 19 seconds ahead of Harry hunt.

Day two was defined by 145 Kms of stage action divided into a double loop of four stages. The opening three stages ranged from 13 to 18 Kms but the sting in the tail came on the last stage. Riva, at 27.17 stood apart as the longest and toughest stage of the rally. Breen set about his task again by banging in 12:19.4 on the opening Gocbeyli 1, extending his lead over Harry Hunt by another 15 seconds. On the stage Victor Henriksson, the first winner of the FSTi shootout in 2007 and lying in third place after day one, dropped 5 minutes as his brake disc woes from Friday came back to haunt him. On to stage eleven and Breen again topped the time sheets, taking nine more seconds from Hunt, with Orhan Avcioglu in the Castrol Team Turkey Ford Fiesta R2 moving into third place. Next up was Bozhane 1, the penultimate stage in the morning loop and Breen set an unbelievable 10:15.7 on the 14.59 Kms moving up to 17th overall. The final stage before service was the 27Kms of Riva 1 and Breen was in a class of his own setting 18:46.4, with his nearest Fiesta rival Murat Bostanci on 20:24.2. There was however a worry as Craig made his way off the stage as the ST Fiesta’s gearbox began to give problems and Craig could not select 2nd gear. In service as well as the usual repairs his Turkish service crew replaced the offending gearbox. Craig did sustain a ten second penalty as he was one minute late out off the thirty minute service halt.

So the rerun over the second loop beckoned. Gocbeyli 2 was first to be tackled and Breen continued to better his times from the first run over a stage by cutting five from the first time through. This changed on SS 15, Ulupelit 2 as Craig’s Fiesta succumbed to the tough conditions with a loose bolt on their rear stub axle resulting in the loss of a wheel. This brought an end to the crew fighting for FSTi honours as the pair were forced to retire for the day and return on Sunday under SupeRally. Under FIA SupeRally rules Craig had to sustain a ten minute penalty, putting the young charger down to 24th overall with the penalty incurred.

The final day’s action was primarily made up of a double loop of three stages but heavy over night rain saw the organisers cancel stages 18 and 19 on safety grounds.

So the battle recommenced on special stage 20 and Breen suffered more problems but was able to continue. Midday service followed and as conditions had improved on the stages that were lost over the mornings loop, the full three tests were cleared. Over those closing stages Craig gained two more places to finish 22nd overall and second in the Fiesta SportTrophy International series.

There was a time during Saturday’s stages where a top fifteen finish or better looked on the cards but in rallying every turn, every jump, and every water splash throws up something unexpected and that’s what Craig and Gareth found out this weekend. There will be more forays to the World Rally Championship later in the season but for now Craig has gained incredible experience that will aid him in the future.

Citroen Reports

Posted: April 21, 2010 11:43 AM

Hirvonen nets podium for Ford in gruelling Rally of Turkey

Posted: April 21, 2010 11:40 AM

BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team drivers Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen finished third in the Rally of Turkey today after the most demanding round of the FIA World Rally Championship season to date. The Finns' bid for victory was ended this morning by a combination of bad weather, which forced the cancellation of two speed tests, and a puncture after their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car struck a rock.

Team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila finished eighth in another Focus RS WRC after a superb recovery drive following an accident yesterday morning. The double points haul keeps Ford in second place in the manufacturers' standings, 15 points from the lead. Hirvonen remains third in the drivers' championship, five points ahead of fourth-placed Latvala.

After five previous encounters in southern Turkey, this fourth round of the championship moved north to Istanbul. After a start ceremony in the shadow of the famous Blue Mosque, the rally crossed from the European part of the city to the Asian quarter, where the rally was based. Rocky roads north-east of the city near the Black Sea coastline proved a tough challenge for cars and tyres, while organisers took advantage of new rules for 2010 to spice up the action further with mixed surface speed tests.

Hirvonen led initially and ended the opening leg in third after intense competition which saw the top six cars covered by just 27sec. He retained third during the second leg and started the final day just 17.3sec from the lead. However, torrential overnight rain turned this morning's opening two special stages into a mudbath and they were cancelled. It reduced today's competitive distance by a third and with fewer kilometres in which to close the gap, Hirvonen attacked hard once the action started.

However, in treacherously muddy conditions, he slid wide 1.5km from the start of the 19.22km Ballica test and hit a rock, puncturing the rear left tyre. He lost more than 45sec driving to the end of the stage and dropped to fourth. However, he regained third on the next stage when Dani Sordo retired and drove cautiously through the final two tests to consolidate a podium position.

"I decided to chase the victory this morning but the two cancelled stages didn't help me," said 29-year-old Hirvonen.
"The car slid wide at a very fast place and hit a rock, puncturing the tyre. The tyre was destroyed after 10km but we decided to continue and only lost about 45sec, so that was the right decision. The impact also damaged the lining of the wheel arch and the car filled with dust and grit. It was so bad I couldn't see properly.

"We only made one mistake but we ended the day on the podium where we started, so it's not so bad. After what happened, third was the best we could achieve. It's not what I hoped for this weekend but the puncture destroyed my hopes of a win," he added.

Latvala ended the first leg in sixth but rolled just 1km after the start of the opening test on the second leg. He dropped nine minutes before spectators lifted the car back onto its wheels and lost more time on the remaining two tests before service as the turbo boost pipe was damaged in the crash. He slid to 17th but climbed to 12th by the end of the day. A fast, but cautious, drive today enabled the 25-year-old to move up to eighth.

"It was an up and down weekend," he said. "Sitting in the car upside down wasn't a good place to be yesterday morning, but we scored manufacturers' and drivers' points so in the end it wasn't so bad. This was the hardest event of the year and the most demanding rally for the car that I've ever driven on. After the accident I thought I could take something from the rally, but I'm surprised to finish as high as eighth."

BP Ford Abu Dhabi team director Malcolm Wilson was pleased Hirvonen recovered to claim a podium finish. "Sadly our chances evaporated with the cancelled stages, but Mikko salvaged third on what was the hardest event in the championship. The situation in the manufacturers' championship is virtually unchanged as only one point separated us from our rivals on this rally," he said.

Ford of Europe motorsport chief Gerard Quinn said:
"The conditions here have been widely accepted as the toughest so far this season. However, we had no mechanical problems with our cars and Pirelli's tyres performed superbly in the most arduous situation. It was refreshing to see how competitive our drivers were and how closely-fought this rally was. Hopefully this will distance the sport from the controversies that followed Rally Jordan."

News from other Ford teams
The privately-entered Ford Fiesta S2000 of Dennis Kuipers and Frederic Miclotte finished ninth and the car headed the S2000 category for the third consecutive WRC round.

Next round
The BP Ford Abu Dhabi squad faces its longest journey of the season for round five. Rally New Zealand is based in Auckland on 6 - 9 May and is primarily a gravel event on fast and flowing roads on North Island, but with short asphalt sections included in several tests.


Posted: April 21, 2010 11:38 AM

1 S Loeb/D Elena (Citroen C4 WRC) 3hr 01min 38.7sec
2 P Solberg/P Mills (Citroen C4 WRC) 3hr 02min 33.2sec
3 M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen (Ford Focus WRC) 3hr 03min 22.1sec
4 S Ogier/J Ingrassia FRA (Citroen C4 WRC) 3hr 05min 24.7sec
5 K Räikkönen/K Lindström (Citroen C4 WRC) 3hr 08min 23.0sec
6 F Villagra/J Diaz (Ford Focus WRC) 3hr 09min 35.4sec
7 M Wilson/S Martin (Ford Focus WRC) 3hr 10min 08.5sec
8 J-M Latvala/M Anttila (Ford Focus WRC) 3hr 21min 22.9sec
9 D Kuipers/F Miclotte (Ford Fiesta S2000) 3hr 25min 00.9sec
10 A Burkart/A Kachel (Suzuki Swift S1600) 3hr 28min 43.4sec

Citroen Sport Previews

Posted: April 15, 2010 1:39 PM

Ford Fiesta S2000 to Tackle Turkey

Posted: April 15, 2010 1:38 PM

Two Ford Fiesta S2000s will make their way to Turkey next week for the fourth round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC).  The event will see Dutchman Dennis Kuipers go head to head with Turkish driver Yağız Avcı for what is expected to be a good battle with local S2000 crews.  

The Rally of Turkey will be based in a new location this year, moving from Antalya in the south-west region to Istanbul in the cooler north.  This will a unique event in the WRC calendar as the race will start in Europe but over the course of the three day event the route will also cross over into Asia.  

The roads of the special stages based on the Asian side of Istanbul will be fast, wide and smooth. The rally organisers have chosen to take advantage of a new FIA regulation for 2010 permitting mixed surface events, so the predominantly gravel route contains almost 50km of asphalt, which will concentrate the minds of drivers unfamiliar with the region.  

The WRC round in Jordan last week saw six Ford Fiesta S2000 crews forced to deal with gruelling stages of sandy gravel, temperatures topping 40 degrees and a variety of altitudes.  Despite a series of extremely tough stages, Spanish driver Xevi Pons managed to pull clear and was awarded his second victory in the championship so far.    

24-year-old Dennis Kuipers from Holland will contest the first event of his eight round-campaign in Turkey next week, and will be partnered with the experienced Belgian co-driver, Fred Miclotte.  The young Dutchman is an M-Sport entry and made the transition to the Ford Fiesta S2000 after previously contesting in several European and WRC events in his Ford Focus RS WRC in 2008 and 2009.  

Kuipers is hoping that the move to the new Ford Fiesta S2000 will allow him to develop his experience at the top level and allow him to take on a full campaign in 2011.  Kuipers will also be taking part in WRC events in Portugal, Bulgaria, Finland, Germany, Japan or Spain, France and Great Britain later this year.  

Competing alongside Kuipers will be Yağız Avcı, the reigning Turkish Rally champion.  With the home advantage Avci will be flying the flag for Castrol Ford Team Türkiye.  The 26-year-old has an excellent track record of rallying in the Turkish Rally Championship, claiming victories on five of the six events that he has taken part in.  Avci is the youngest Turkish Rally champion in history and will be tough to beat on his home turf.  

The Rally of Turkey will officially begin on Thursday 15 April in the historical Sultanahment Square, right in the heart of the city between the famous Blue Mosque and Haghai Sophia.  Rally HQ will be based in Pendik, a coastal district of Istanbul based on the Asian side of the city on the Marmara sea.  

The Ford Fiesta S2000s will need to cover 358km of competitive distance over 23 testing stages in Turkey.  Day one will consist of a series of nine short stages over 98.43km, but the second day will be more challenging as the team cover 145.82km including the longest stage at 27.17km. The final day comprises of just six stages, but these are some of the longest in the rally so will require the crews’ full attention to concentrate on the potential difficulties of driving on asphalt with gravel tyres.  

Dennis Kuipers said:
“I’m really looking forward to Turkey.  This is my first event with the Fiesta S2000 so I am very curious to find out how the car feels on the gravel stages.  With the Ford Focus WRC, I did a few events on gravel, but the Rally of Turkey next week will be a great challenge.  Our goal is mostly to gain experience during the events and get up to speed.”  

Yağız Avcı said:
“I will start the season with a new car, new team and a new co-driver.  After clinching Turkish Rally Champion title last year, this season our goal is to repeat that but now with Castrol Ford Team Turkey and Ford Fiesta S2000. We did a pre-event test with the Fiesta S2000 and I tried to learn as much as possible about the rally car. I think Fiesta S2000 is very well balanced and great to drive but of course it will take some time for me to adapt completely and find the perfect rhythm.  The stages of this year’s Rally of Turkey are completely different from the Antalya stages but I am familiar with a few of the stages from the IRC/ERC Istanbul Rally.  We are really looking forward to the event. Rally of Turkey also counts as three separate events for Turkish Rally Championship so we have to collect maximum points from  each day. It will be a very good competition as there are many fast drivers, we will try our best to have a good start for 2010 season.”  

M-Sport Managing Director Malcolm Wilson said:
“Although Denis [Kuipers] hasn’t driven the Ford Fiesta S2000 yet and it will be a very different driving experience from the Ford Focus WRC, I imagine that he will settle in well.  Competing against the reigning Turkish Rally champion, Yagiz [Avci], will keep the S2000 drivers on their toes – this should be an exciting battle.”

FSTi crews set for taste of Turkey
Craig Breen Makes once off apperance

Posted: April 15, 2010 1:37 PM

The 2010 Fiesta SportTrophy International (FSTi) series gets underway next week as the competition joins the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) for the fifth successive year, kicking off with the first of seven rounds at the Rally of Turkey.  This will be the second time that FSTi has visited Turkey, the last time being in 2008, which proved to be a real challenge for the FSTi drivers.  

The series, run by M-Sport with support from Pirelli, will again run alongside the WRC, taking in the Vodafone Rally de Portugal, Neste Oil Rally Finland, ADAC Rallye Deutschland, the new Alsace-based Rallye de France, Rally de España and, finally, the Rally of Great Britain.

  The FST concept was previously based around the GpN Ford Fiesta ST and, whilst this will remain eligible for FSTi, the primary championship contender will be the Ford Fiesta R2.  With a five-speed sequential gearbox, the Ford Fiesta R2 is based on the Ford Fiesta Sport using the 1.6L Ti-Vct 120PS (1598cc) base engine as in regular production.  It is built from a standard conversion kit developed by M-Sport and has won its class on both the WRC events that it has entered to date.  

Since its introduction to the championship in 2003, the Rally of Turkey has been known for its rough gravel roads in the country’s southwest region near Antalya, but the location of this year’s rally has moved to Istanbul, the only city in the world to span two continents (Europe and Asia), where the 358km of stages promise to be wider, smoother and faster.  The rally organisers have also chosen to take advantage of a new FIA regulation for 2010 permitting mixed surface events, so the predominantly gravel route contains almost 50km of asphalt, which will concentrate the minds of any drivers not local to the region

  Returning to Turkey will be reigning FSTi champion Craig Breen, who will be driving a GpN Fiesta ST for this one-off event under the Castrol Team Türkiye banner with his regular co-driver Gareth Roberts.  Following the success of his debut rally year (titles include FSTi, FST UK, FST Ireland, Junior Irish Rally Champion and FST International Shootout winner), the 20-year-old Irishman is mounting a British Rally Championship (BRC) campaign in his Ford Fiesta S2000 in 2010.  A gap in the BRC calendar has allowed Breen the opportunity to contest the Rally of Turkey in a Fiesta ST, the model that served him so well in 2009.  

Breen, however, is not the only FST Shootout winner to be competing in Turkey.  Victor Henriksson (22) from Sweden was the first winner of the Shootout in 2007, so both drivers will be competing with the experience of training for a year at M-Sport and working for the BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team.  Henriksson and co-driver Håkan Palm, however, will be driving the new Fiesta R2 and intends to compete in four FSTi rounds this year, so he will be driving with the aim of solid championship points.  The young Swede has only competed in FSTi on one occasion (Rally GB 2007), but he took the FSTi victory so his confidence ahead of Turkey should be good.  

British crew Harry Hunt (21) and co-driver Sebastian Marshall have taken advantage of the Junior WRC+FSTi package, which allows them to enter two championships and to score points toward the J-WRC Rookie Award.  Hunt’s rally debut was the Malcolm Wilson Rally based in the UK, and was a FST UK regular in 2009.  His plans for 2010 are far more ambitious, as he undertakes a full Intercontinental Rally Championship (IRC) campaign, in addition to all European WRC events.  

The event will officially begin on Thursday 15 April in the historical Sultanahment Square  in the heart of the city, between the famous Blue Mosque and Haghai Sophia. 

  FSTi competitors will be competing for an all-expenses-paid test in the newly developed Ford Fiesta S2000 with BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team driver and 2009 World Championship runner-up Mikko Hirvonen, with the chance to discuss the test with the flying Finn and M-Sport Managing Director Malcolm Wilson OBE.  A prize fund is also available from which the winner of each rally will receive a €1,500 M-Sport voucher.  

As in previous years, the series winner plus one 'wildcard' will be put forward to the FST International Shootout to compete against drivers from other FST championships around the world in order to win a year's contract to work at M-Sport with the BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team.  

Of the seven counting rounds, the best points from five rounds will count towards the championship standings. This will allow those drivers who have completed the full season to drop any low scores, but will also assist those drivers who are only able to compete on an event-by-event basis to score highly overall if they achieve good results on an occasional basis.  Scoring for 2010 will be as per FIA scoring, but with one point awarded for each stage win in order to reward drivers for demonstrations of outright pace.  

2009 FSTi champion Craig Breen said:
"I'm really looking forward to getting back behind the wheel of the Fiesta ST again after a long absence. Since winning the FST Shootout, I have enjoyed three months of working with the Ford World Rally Team, thanks to Malcolm Wilson and his experienced team of staff at M-Sport. This rally is a bit of fun, as well as an exercise in learning the stages so that we can return next year in our S2000 Fiesta, and be prepared to win.  That said, I am looking forward to the competition from the rest of the FSTi field, it should be an exciting rally."

Ford's quartet tuned up to strike the right note in Istanbul

Posted: April 15, 2010 1:28 PM

The Four Lads and They Might Be Giants enjoyed musical success with 'Istanbul (not Constantinople)' in 1953 and 1990 respectively. BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team's four lads – Mikko Hirvonen and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen and team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila – will be giants in Turkey's largest city if they can record a hit in the FIA World Rally Championship there next week.

Istanbul, officially known as Constantinople until 1930, hosts the Rally of Turkey (15 - 18 April) which returns to the series after a year's absence. Formerly based in Kemer on Turkey's south coast, the rally has moved north to the world's fifth largest city. Its location, bridging both sides of the Bosphorus River at the gateway between Europe and Asia, means the fourth round of the 13-event series will be the first to span two continents.

Apart from roads that they have never seen before, there will be plenty more for Ford's Finns to get used to in their Focus RS World Rally Cars. The rally is the first to take advantage of new rules for 2010 allowing mixed surface speed tests. It is essentially a gravel event, but almost a third of the second leg is asphalt. Both the gravel and asphalt must be tackled using Pirelli's Scorpion gravel tyres, placing a strong emphasis on their performance over the sealed surface sections.

In contrast to the slow and rocky tracks in the mountains high above Kemer, the undulating special stages north-east of Istanbul between the Marmara and the Black Seas, are fast and smooth. The roads are also wide, but drivers hoping to cut corners to shave tenths of a second from their stage times must be wary of large rocks which frequently line the edge of the tracks. Heavy rain in the area has left many roads wet and muddy which could add yet another challenge to the rally.

Hirvonen lies third in the drivers' championship and the 29-year-old is focused on emulating his victory in 2008 on the rally's last WRC appearance.

"I enjoy competing on new rallies. It's a new challenge, both in driving the stages and in preparing pace notes during the recce," he said. "I have a good record on rallies that are new to the championship. Last year I won in Poland and Australia, and in previous years I also won in Norway and Jordan when they were held for the first time. I'm not sure why that is, but if I can extend that record in Turkey then I'll be delighted.

"I made a silly mistake in Jordan and I must recover from that in Turkey so the gap at the top of the drivers' championship doesn't grow. This is the first rally to use proper mixed surface stages since the new rules came in and it will bring something different to the event. Mixed stages haven't been allowed for several years but they used to be a regular part of the WRC. It's another new challenge and I'll think about how to handle the asphalt sections before the start," added Hirvonen.

Latvala was runner-up to Hirvonen in 2008 and the 25-year-old is keen to continue his strong start to the season, which has lifted him to second in the drivers' standings and helped BP Ford Abu Dhabi into second in the manufacturers' championship. He is well aware of the difficulties that the weather and mixed surface stages could bring.

"When I drove in Italy early in my career there were many mixed surface stages," he said. "I don’t mind if the asphalt sections are slow, but it's more difficult driving on fast asphalt with gravel tyres. The car moves around with a gravel set-up and if it is wet then judging the braking points will be tricky. It's better if the asphalt comes at the end of a group of stages because the tyres are worn and like slick rubber. They grip better and the car doesn't move so much.

"But in Turkey most of the asphalt is at the beginning of the first stage in a group, so there will be no chance to wear the tyres. Anyway, I'll need to retain the grip with so many gravel kilometres left.

"Obviously we must make new pace notes. I chose to do the same on the last round in Jordan, and that's the most difficult rally in the championship on which to write notes, so I hope it will be easier in Turkey. The stages aren't too long which is good. The longer the stages, the harder it is to make notes because the concentration periods are longer," added Latvala.

Team News

* Tyre partner Pirelli will provide BP Ford Abu Dhabi with one regulation tyre pattern. The Scorpion gravel tyre will be available in hard compound only. Teams are not allowed to hand-carve additional cuts into the rubber and each car can carry two spare wheels.

* Ford cars comprise more than a third of the rally's 44 entries with 15 vehicles sporting the Blue Oval. Henning Solberg / Ilka Minor and Matthew Wilson / Scott Martin are nominated by the Stobart M-Sport Ford team in Focus RS WRCs, while Federico Villagra / Jorge Perez Companc will drive for the Munchi's Ford squad in a similar car. Monster World Rally Team will field Ken Block / Alex Gelsomino for their second outing of the season in another Focus RS WRC. Two Fiesta S2000 crews will start and the rally also marks the opening round of the Fiesta SportTrophy International.

Entry List Available

Posted: April 7, 2010 4:00 PM

Rally Guide 1

Posted: February 26, 2010 1:50 PM

Event Website / Details

Posted: January 1, 2010 12:01 AM

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