M-Sport Ford World Rally Team will revisit an old friend next week as the FIA World Rally Championship returns to Turkey – the home of Ford commercials including the Transit. The team secured one-two finishes at the event in 2006 and 2008, and are determined to deliver more Turkish delight this year.
Based around the holiday resort of Marmaris, this year’s event offers a completely new challenge with speed tests never before used on the world stage. The team have no previous data from these stages, and the crews have to make their pacenotes from scratch – making this the ultimate test on a completely level playing field.
In preparation for the challenges ahead, the team travelled to Greece where they completed a four-day test on roads similar to those anticipated next week. The team also have the advantage of being able to choose between chassis, and all three EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRCs will carry the original aero package.
The upgrades carried on the leading Fiesta in Finland and Germany provided increased performance at high speed, but in Turkey – where the average speeds will be considerably lower – the team have the luxury of opting for proven durability.
But it’s not just the main class that M-Sport Ford fans should keep an eye on next week. Of the 14 local crews in attendance, 12 will compete behind the wheel of the Fiesta and the Blue Oval accounts for a mammoth 67 percent of the overall entry.
The three Fiesta WRCs are joined by the older-specification Ford Fiesta RS WRC of Yazeed Al-Rajhi, and 10 EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta R5s will also tackle the loose gravel stages – eight of which as part of the WRC 2 category.
An impressive 21 one-litre EcoBoost Ford Fiesta R2s have also been entered – most of which will go head-to-head for one of the biggest prizes in motorsport as Rally Turkey hosts the final round of the FIA Junior World Rally Championship where nine drivers have a mathematical chance of clinching the title.
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It’s been a long time since we last welcomed a brand-new event to the championship, and I’m sure we’re all in for an exciting weekend of rallying. While we have been to Turkey before, we’ve not visited this region and absolutely everything will be new to both the team and the crews.
“We have no previous data from the stages and the crews will have to make pacenotes from scratch. With the other events becoming more and more familiar, this is something completely different and it will be interesting to see who masters the challenge.
“We’re hoping to do just that and both Sébastien and Elfyn had two days of testing in Greece to best prepare for the challenges ahead. Sébastien may be hampered by his early running order, but both could be in with a chance of challenging for the top results.
“Teemu had to go without a test on this occasion, but he should not be discounted for a strong result. He is such a quick learner and this is a new event which provides something of a level playing field, so it will be interesting to see what he can do.”
When the FIA World Rally Championship last visited Turkey, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia were a month shy of claiming their maiden victory. Eight years later and the Frenchman have 43 wins and five championship titles to their name.
The reigning champions will have their work cut out as only the second car on the road through the opening day of competition, but have their sights firmly set on a strong haul of points to reignite their championship defence.
Previous starts: 1
Best result: 4th (2010)
Sébastien Ogier said:
“Rally Turkey will be an interesting event for sure as no one really knows what to expect. This is the first completely new event for a long time and, even though I contested the rally in 2010, next week’s event will be completely different.
“There will be a lot of work to do on the recce, and Julien [Ingrassia, co-driver] will have to write brand-new notes for every single kilometre! It’ll be a lot of work, but I’m looking forward to the challenge and to discovering what these new stages will be like.
“Our goal is to deliver the best possible result, but the loose gravel will make it a challenge. We’ll be the second car on the road and there will be a lot of fast drivers benefiting from a cleaner and faster road behind. We’ll need to try and stay as close as we can on Friday morning and then see where we are after that.
“The most important thing is to score a strong haul of points for our championship defence, and that is what we will focus on.”
Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt will face a brand-new challenge when they venture to Rally Turkey next week; but their determination and will to succeed remains as strong as ever.
Working hard in the lead-up to the event, the British pairing are well prepared and will look to use their later running order to their advantage whilst challenging for the top positions.
Elfyn Evans said:
“We’ll be taking a step into the unknown with a brand-new rally next week. I’m sure it will be an interesting weekend and I’m looking forward to discovering what the Turkish stages have to offer.
“For sure it will be hot, and we’ll need to be prepared for that. It also looks as though it could be quite loose which would give us a good road position for the first day; but it also has the potential to be fairly rough and everyone will need to have their wits about them.
“We completed our pre-event test on some pretty rough roads in Greece and the Fiesta proved as strong as ever. We’ve had to do a lot of preparation to get ready for this one, and the hard work will only continue next week.
“We’re as prepared as we can be and I think we’re all looking forward to experiencing something completely new – where the aim is to be in the fight for the top positions.”
Teemu Suninen and Mikko Markkula will be in good company when they tackle the stages of Rally Turkey for the first time next week – their rivals, for once, not having the advantage of experience.
The Finns may not have had a pre-event test, but Suninen has proved himself a quick learner time and again. That, coupled with his advantageous running order on the first day, means that the young Finn should not be discounted for a strong result.
Teemu Suninen said:
“Whereas most of the rallies this year have been new only for me, this one will be new for everyone. That will make things really interesting and could bring me an opportunity as we will all be equal on experience before the first stage.
“No one is allowed is test in Turkey so we’ll all experience the roads for the first time during the recce and then the shakedown. Set-up wise, I’ll discuss with my team mates first to see what they have experienced and discovered. Otherwise, I will need to make my own conclusions and choices.
“As for what to expect, I have never been to Turkey before and will travel out a little earlier than usual to get a feel for everything. I’m expecting it to be a very hot rally and very demanding, but I hope to deliver a good result.”