The rally billed as one of the toughest of the season, the return of the Rally of Turkey to the WRC calendar provided no let-up for crews. Rather, the narrow and rocky speed tests surrounding the tourist-packed seaside resort of Kemer proved just as treacherous and punishing. Winding through the mountains to the west of the service park, the roads pitted crews against a combination of fast sections with tight and twisty corners, just two weeks after Acropolis. Nestled alongside the Mediterranean in southern Turkey, Kemer is a holiday hotspot where, for the most part, sunshine and swimming are the name of the game. Not so for the WRC however after a year away from the region. Amid soaring temperatures, crews tackled the parched and barren routes which sat in stark contrast to the usual beach and bikinis. It was a far cry from the last time the WRC was here, when monsoon conditions swamped several stages, causing them to be canceled. The longest day of the rally presented a heady mix of drama and disappointment for all. “As we expected, Turkey has provided a tough test for the new car, which we must remember is still only on its second rally” said David Richards, Subaru World Rally Team Principal. “We have learned a great deal more about our new car, which is what we came here to do, and this all stands us in good stead. Petter and Chris adopted exactly the right approach to today, and it is a great shame that Chris and Stéphane were forced to retire otherwise we’d be looking at both cars in the points again.”
Both Subaru World Rally Team crews made a promising start on the event’s opening spectator stage on Thursday night. The head-to-head blast in the nearby city of Antalya saw Solberg and Mills grab second position overall, and team-mates Atkinson and Prévot carry sixth place into Friday’s restart. On the very loose surface of Friday’s stages, the large rocks that had been cleared to the roadside were invariably dragged onto the narrow mountain tracks by each passing car. The afternoon’s second running of the tests was particularly demanding as the surface deteriorated, claiming the hopes of many crews including Atkinson and Prévot. Nearly two thirds of the 16 World Rally Cars felt Turkey’s bite in just three stages, demonstrating precisely how the challenge of this rally cannot be underestimated.
With a carefully measured drive to avoid falling foul of the increasingly treacherous conditions, Solberg and Mills produced a steady performance to finish in sixth position overall. “Sixth is good today, and I’m happy with our progress” said Petter Solberg. “We were just trying to take it a little bit carefully today, but it was so, so tough, you know. I know things can happen here, and I don’t want to hit rocks or have any problems. We just need to take things step by step; it’s still a new car, so I’m quite happy with today.”
After a morning in which the duo displayed a similarly calculated approach to this endurance event, Atkinson and Prévot’s challenge was brought to an end on stage six. Forced to retire with damaged front suspension, the duo will restart tomorrow under Superally conditions. With more of the same tumult predicted for the rest of the rally, a solid finish is still within reach. “We weren’t pushing too hard this morning, and things were looking good” said Chris Atkinson. “We would have been in the points by the end of the day. The plan was to make no mistakes and we did that, so it’s a shame to be stopped by something that’s out of our hands. We’ll use tomorrow to do a little bit of testing and see how the car feels, and then see how quick we can push.
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