FIA RALLY NEWS 

COMING EVENT - 7th Rally of Turkey (13-15 October 2006)


13th round out of 16 in the 2006 FIA World Rally Championship, 8th round out of ninth in the 2006 FIA Junior World Rally Championship

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
RALLY OF TURKEY
Media FIA Pre-event Press Conference
12.10.2006

Present:
Fatih Kara (FIA JWRC)
Guy Wilks (FIA JWRC)
Colin McRae - Kronos Total Citroën World Rally Team
Marcus Grönholm - BP-Ford World Rally Team
Armin Schwarz - Red Bull Škoda Team
Petter Solberg - Subaru World Rally Team

Welcome to the FIA pre-event press conference.

Q:
Fatih, welcome. You are the first Turkish driver to be representing your nation on the FIA Junior World Rally Championship; how does it feel to be driving on home territory? Do you think that being a local driver gives you an advantage? How well do you know these stages? Is this your best chance of the year for a top result? How tough is this event for a Super 1600 car?

FK:
It’s a very good feeling and I’m very excited for my home rally. I’m very happy to be here and I hope it will be a very good race. I know the roads a little, I raced in 2005 – so I have experience, but they (rivals) have a lot of experience too. I don’t know if this is my best chance, maybe it is. This is not tough (for the car); in 2004 and 2005 it was much tougher. The stages are very nice, very fast in places and quite technical.

Q:
Guy, you are currently third in the JWRC on 21 points. Your team-mate P-G Andersson leads on 29 points and Patrick Sandell is behind him on 28 points; they have both got a chance of winning the title here in Turkey, what can you do to stop them? Are you going to push hard for the win, in order to give yourself the best chance of winning the title here or is it more a question of coming away with as many points as possible?

GW:
Obviously I’ll try to stop them by winning the event. They’re in control of their rally and I’m only in control of my event. My aim is to win; it’s just how we go about doing that here. I think experience is definitely playing its part in my career now. I’ve been there and learned it, sometimes the hard way. Once you have that experience it never leaves you. I’ve been on the back of some bad results. I’ve told you about our aim, we just want to do it then assess the (Championship) situation once the rally is finished. Foremost in my mind is keeping the car on the road – the road has changed so much since the recce. We’ve seen the rain which will make a difference, but it could dry out. We could have mixed conditions; that’s obvious and very difficult to call. We’ll have a look after the first loop, we’ll see then who is attacking and who’s not, but it’s very important to get the car back to first service.

Q:
How much local support do you have here Fatih? Is the JWRC a good way to promote yourself and your career? What is your plan for next year; will you stay in the JWRC or would you like to do something else? Is the Renault Clio still competitive in the category compared to some of the newer cars that are competing at the moment?

FK:
I don’t know how many spectators will come in the rain, but of course there are some. JWRC is good; in 2003 I was just watching these guys on the stages. I was at the starter level in the Turkish Championship. Now it’s another role for me, I need more and more experience. I’m very lucky driving the Clio; it’s a very good car. I don’t know about next year.

Q:
Guy, you had a bit of World Rally Car experience in Ireland before coming here. Tell us how it went – do you think you would be ready to step up to that level on a full time basis next year? According to the news recently you won’t be at the wheel of a Suzuki next year, so what are your plans for 2007?

GW:
We did an international rally in the south of Ireland. We did quite well, I suppose. It was my first experience of the World Rally Car. We were up against multiple British champion Mark Higgins and Markko Martin and, at the end of the first day, we were leading by quite a healthy margin. I’m sure I can make that step, I have the belief in myself – it’s just so difficult to get an opportunity with a manufacturer when you have so little experience in a World Rally Car. The only way to get experience is money – I don’t have that. We’re working very hard on that. I have no plans for 2007; I’m still open to offers!

Q:
Colin, first of all, welcome back. How does it feel to be a world rally star again? When you first heard the news that Sébastien Loeb had broken his arm, did you expect a phone call from the team? Was it a surprise to you? You tested the car in the UK for a day and a half; how did it feel? Was it much different to the 2003 Citroën Xsara you last drove as part of the factory team? What are going to be your objectives for this event and how much pressure are you under?

CM:
It’s strange, quite strange. I was enjoying the holiday I was having for a year, but it’s a great opportunity to step into the World Champion’s car – it’s not one that comes along very often. I’m looking forward to it. I wasn’t really expecting it, there are a lot of other drivers out there – it was quite a surprise to get the call. It’s a long time since I drove the Xsara, it’s hard to make the comparisons but there were no major shocks. The car was quite easy to drive for the first 90 per cent, it’s that last 10 per cent which is hard to get. It’s a tough event for me; I only did it once in 2003. The stages have changed completely and we’ve had to re-write our notes from the start. It would have been easier to come back to Australia or one of the other rallies I know well.

Q:
Marcus, welcome. Sébastien’s accident is obviously big news for you as well. What did you think when you heard about it? Does it give you a chance of winning the Drivers’ Championship? What about the Manufacturers’ Championship? Does this situation affect tactics; either your own or the team’s? Without Sébastien, who do you think will be your biggest challenger here?

MG:
The first time I got the text message, I wasn’t sure it was true. Then I heard, yes, it changes things a little bit. I still have a chance to catch him, but it depends on when he will come back. We are trying to win rallies but it won’t be easy – given the weather conditions here. It will be difficult, first I have to finish all of the rallies and nearly win them all. For the Manufacturers’ Championship it looks better. Even when Seb was there we were nearly catching them. We will see. I will drive in the same way, there’s no reason to change – we have to do the same job. My biggest challenge will be from Petter, Colin and my team-mate Mikko – they will be the fastest here.

Q:
Armin, you obviously had big problems in Cyprus with the electrical problem that stopped both cars after SS1. Luckily you’ve had the necessary dispensation to do some testing; have you found the root cause of the problem and do you feel confident that it will not happen again? How did your test go? In Cyprus we had no real chance to see the potential of the car in these rough and hot conditions; how do you think it will go here in Turkey?

AS:
First of all I can only thank the FIA and the teams for the permission to test. It was not a big problem, but both cars stopped with the destroyed ECU. It was a sensor problem which caused the trouble, but luckily the engines were not damaged so we could use them again here. I am confident we will not have the problem again on this rally. In Cyprus, it was a heat problem which it looks like we won’t have here. We have been optimistic before Cyprus, but look at the weather here – anything can happen. It is not an easy rally, especially when it is wet. The drivers need to keep a good speed, but Andreas especially; we would like to see him at the finish. There is no time for disappointment, this is motorsport, we worked very hard for the good results and we will work hard again here.

Q:
Petter, welcome. We’ve not seen much of you recently as you’ve not been getting the results you wanted, but Subaru is addressing the problems. There’s been a development test in Sicily and what has been the result of that? Do you expect the Impreza to be stronger here than it was in Cyprus? How much do you think you can get out of this year, or are you just concentrating on next year now? Of course, we have no Sébastien Loeb here; could you fight for a win? How important is it to Subaru to win a rally this year?

PS:
I didn’t do the test. I’ve been sick for one and a half weeks and, actually, today is the best day. From what I’ve heard, things have improved. They seem to be getting to the bottom of many of the troubles we have had with the car. There are many areas, the engineers we have got into the team are doing a good job – there’s no point going into details. Some details are better. Here, it depends on the weather. If it stays like this it could be good, we have to wait and see. It could be a long time before we’re on the top step. How can Marcus say this? We haven’t been close. It’s nice of him! It hasn’t been promising this year, but we will try. You want the truth or the political way… It’s not been good fun this year. There’s no point to give up, we have a lot to learn from this car for next year. Everything we can do to learn for next year we will do, hopefully we can get 40 points more this season… The guys are working flat out. I don’t think many of them have seen their wives for a long time. Let’s hope they can get a little bit back. I must say, it’s good to have Colin back again – we’ve been missing him.

Q:
Colin, apart from a MkII Escort, you’ve not really driven a rally car in anger for nearly a year now. How difficult do you think it will be for you to get back into the swing of things? How long will it be before you are running at full speed? Your road position is pretty much at the back of the field; do you think that will help you on the opening day? How easy has it been to get back into working with Nicky and making effective pace notes on the recce? Was this an entirely new event for you, or were there some bits that were familiar from 2003? What instructions have the team given you?

CM:
About six months, I think…! Six hours maybe, I don’t know. As I said, it quite easy to go to a reasonable speed, but to have a year out and go up against these guys - the best in the world - I don’t know. If it had stayed dry, it would have been better. The year off meant we’d be further down the road, which could have helped with our road position in the dry. That’s out the window now. I don’t know. The last thing I want to do is make a mistake, but in these conditions, it’s not going to be nice. One thing’s for sure, I’ve got no excuses.

Q:
What did you think of the conditions Marcus, from what you could see on the recce? Is this a rally you think you are going to enjoy? In Cyprus, you lost time on the repeated stages; do you think you will be okay here on the second run?

MG:
It looks good in the recce, the stages are nice and smooth and wide. Now the rain has changed it and we don’t know how it looks in the mountains. It will be a surprise for us. I don’t know, we will see. A few stages in Cyprus were not so good, but this is not Cyprus.

Q:
Looking forward to next year Armin, do you feel confident that the Red Bull-Škoda programme can continue? Which stage of planning have you arrived at? When do you think you will know for sure?

AS:
The only thing I can say is that we are very confident to be here next year. In which condition, I don’t know. Things are looking good. Andreas has come up through the Red Bull young driver project, it helps him. In Germany he did a fantastic job. You need a long-term and stable programme for a driver like this. Red Bull is fully behind this young driver.

Q:
The other piece of news to emerge from Subaru recently was the confirmation of Chris Atkinson alongside you for next year. Are you pleased by that decision? Now that it’s just you and Chris on every rally next year, do you think you will make a strong team?

PS:
Yes, he is very good. He’s a young driver and similar to Mikko, it’s going to be a good battle between them. Hopefully he will perform better and better for me and the team. Well, hopefully a very strong team; I’m fed up with being down the list.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR:

Ole Rolfsrud (NRK Norway)

Q:
Petter, how was shakedown?

PS:
The shakedown time was good. We’ve been quick on short distances before. We will see tomorrow, we have struggled on the long distances before.

Rally Preview

The event's harsh terrain should have a familiar feel. Run high in the Anatolian mountains, over a variety of broken gravel roads, the stages are broadly similar to those used a fortnight ago on the preceding event in Cyprus. However, there are some important differences. Firstly, the speeds in Turkey are nowhere near as slow as in Cyprus. Secondly the stages are more varied, with several water-splashes and a range of interesting corners making them a spectator's favourite. Turkey has also had its date on the calendar altered for 2006, meaning that conditions should be significantly different to last year's. Its new slot, four months later and right at the end of the summer, makes rain a distinct possibility, as well as fog over some of the mountain tracks. Making its fourth appearance in the FIA WRC calendar, this year's rally will be based once again in the town of Kemer, 40km south of the holiday resort of Antalya. The event will begin with a colourful ceremonial start in Antalya's Cumhuriyet Square on Thursday evening with the proper rallying taking place over the following three days. The rally comprises 19 special stages and a total competitive distance of 351.01 kilometres. Friday's first Leg is the longest of the rally, with 152 stage kilometres, including a night-time Superspecial in the grounds of Akdeniz University. Leg two brings seven more mountain stages and another visit to the Superspecial, while Sunday's three stages make it the shortest Leg of the rally. The winning car is expected to cross the finish ramp in Kemer at 1306hrs on Sunday. 

Event Timetable

Thursday 12 October: Ceremonial start
Start Cumhuriyet Square, Antalya 19.45

Friday 13 October: Leg 1 Kemer - Kemer
Start Kemer 07.00
SS1 Perge 1 22.43km 07.58
SS2 Myra 1 24.15km 08.41
SS3 Kumluca 1 9.90km 09.24
Serv A Kemer (30 mins) 10.54
SS4 Perge 2 22.43km 12.22
SS5 Myra 2 24.15km 13.05
SS6 Kumluca 2 9.90km 13.48
Serv B Kemer (30 mins) 15.18
SS7 Tekirova 1 5 50km 16.11
SS8 Phaselis 1 29.28km 17.09
SS9 Akdeniz University SSS 1 5.20km 19.22
Serv C Kemer (45 mins) 20.42
Finish Kemer 21.27
Total 152.94km

Saturday 14 October: Leg 2 Kemer - Kemer
Serv D Kemer (10 mins) 08.00
SS10 Kemer 1 20.50km 08.33
SS11 Silyon 1 27.36km 09.21
Serv E Kemer (30 mins) 11.11
SS12 Kemer 2 20.50km 12.04
SS13 Silyon 2 27.36km 12.52
Serv F Kemer (30 mins) 14.42
SS14 Chimera 1 16.91km 16.00
SS15 Phaselis 2 29.28km 16.58
SS16 Akdeniz University SSS 2 5.20km 19.11
Serv G Kemer (45 mins) 20.31
Finish Kemer 21.16
Total 147.11km

Sunday 15 October: Leg 3 Kemer - Kemer
Serv H Kemer (10 mins) 09.15
SS17 Tekirova 2 5.50km 09.48
SS18 Chimera 2 16.91km 10.31
SS19 Olympos 28.55km 11.19
Serv I Kemer (20 mins) 12.42
Finish Kemer 13.06
Total 50.96km
Rally Total 351.01km

Team Previews:

Manufacturer 1: Kronos Total Citroen World Rally Team / Citroën Xsara WRC
1 Colin McRae / Nicky Grist (GB)
2 Daniel Sordo / Marc Marti (E)

Doubtless penalised by the temporary absence of number one team-mates Sébastien Loeb/ Daniel Elena, the Kronos Total Citroën WRT has no intention to give up in Turkey. The Belgian team, currently leading the 'Manufacturers' rankings, is firmly decided to face up to this real tough break and has chosen to enter British team-mates Colin McRae and Nicky Grist to drive the number 1 Xsara. Dani Sordo/Marc Marti are the second nominated crew to score points as since Germany. Xevi Pons and Carlos Del Barrio take the start behind the wheel of the 2005 Xsara with active differentials.

Colin McRae: "The good thing about Turkey is that I should have a good position on the road the first day. If I should start with Marcus [Grönholm] and Mikko [Hirvonen], I think it would be harder. Hopefully the conditions will be dry and I could take profit of starting around the fifteenth position. It might be enough to make the difference on the first day and give me time to get back in the pace for the second day. That's exactly what happened in Australia last year. On the first leg I found clean roads, built up my confidence and I could match the front runners pace the next day."

Daniel Sordo: "What I know from Marc [Martí] and the other drivers is that it's faster and nicer than Cyprus, so surely more enjoyable on a driving point of view. I spoke a lot with Matthieu Bassou, our car engineer and with Michel Ducher, the BFGoodrich technician who works with us. They know the Turkish stages and for me it's a great help. Thanks to their experience, we have tried to do a good job in selecting our tyre package. Regarding my result. I must finish the rally without any scratch on the car."

Manufacturer 1: BP- Ford World Rally Team / Ford Focus RS WRC06
3 Marcus Grönholm / Timo Rautiainen (FIN)
4 Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN)

BP-Ford World Rally Team's thrilling late season world title charge heads to Turkey next week with the squad's campaign boosted by a dramatic twist to the championship race. A string of strong points finishes in the second half of the campaign from Marcus Grönholm and Timo Rautiainen and team-mates Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen has enabled BP-Ford to close to within seven points of the leaders in the FIA World Rally Championship's manufacturers' series.

Marcus Grönholm/Timo Rautiainen: "I will be driving in Turkey to win the rally and then I will go to Australia to try to do the same. I will try to avoid problems, avoid mistakes and then if everything goes well I hope to win this rally. If we keep clear of big problems for the rest of the season then we have a very good chance of winning a championship - and the manufacturers' title looks our best option."

Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen: "As a team we need to catch the championship leaders and while we are still behind them in the points table, my approach to rallies will not alter. I need to score good points. If that means I can move ahead of Dani as well, then so much the better, but the manufacturers' championship is our main target."

Manufacturer 1: Subaru World Rally Team / Subaru Impreza WRC 2006
5 Petter Solberg / Philip Mills (N/GB)
6 Chris Atkinson/Glen MacNeall (AUS)

Petter has tackled Rally Turkey three times before and has finished on the podium twice. His best result came in 2005 when he was second. Last year was Chris's first attempt at the rally and it proved to be a dramatic debut. The Australian retired on the first Leg after ripping a rear wheel off on a rock. He was back for Legs two and three to complete the route and build experience of the tricky conditions.

Petter Solberg/Phil Mills: 'The Turkish rally is good, I like the stages a lot and it's one that normally suits our car and tyres pretty well. We've shown good speed there in the past and I'm going to do the best job I can this time too. When it comes to setting a personal goal for the rally, I really want to say that I'll fight for a win, but given our current form that will be very difficult. So I'm aiming for a podium, but who knows maybe there will be the chance of something better. Things can change very quickly in this sport, and for sure things will turn around for us sooner or later.'

Chris Atkinson/Glen MacNeall: 'Turkey is a tricky rally with very varied conditions. Last time we had rain, hard-packed roads, some loose stuff, slow bits and flat-out sections. This year I'm expecting a bit of everything and changing conditions again - it's a fairly entertaining rally. Coming so soon after Cyprus I think it's going to be a difficult rally too. In Cyprus we weren't expecting a fantastic result, we were realistic about our chances and that's what we got. Next week I'm hoping to keep things more consistent and just hang in there. Going at the same pace we were running at in Cyprus I think a top-five finish is possible - we'll just have to wait and see.'

Manufacturer 2: OMV Peugeot Norway World Rally Team / Peugeot 307 WRC
7 Manfred Stohl / Ilka Minor (A)
8 Henning Solberg / Cato Menkerud (N)

The OMV Peugeot Norway World Rally has every reason to be satisfied with the FIA World Rally Championship 2006 so far. Both drivers are in the top ten of the intermediate driver ranking - Manfred Stohl in fifth and Henning Solberg in eighth place. In the manufacture ranking they are in the lead of the M2-teams since the beginning of the season. But now there is a new objective for the OMV Peugeot Norway World Rally Team: to replace the Subaru works team in third place in the manufacture ranking until year's end.

Manfred Stohl/Ilka Minor: "Each new rally is a challenge, of course. But I don't think that we will have any problems. Compared to Japan, where I also premiered this year, the stages in Turkey are rather slow. That helps to find your rhythm faster. Furthermore, the difference to the Cyprus Rally doesn't seem to be too big - therefore a few WRC-points should be well possible."

Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud: "I really don't remember it that well. But I like this rally and I'm sure that I can be very fast there. Furthermore, Bozian-Racing promised me an excellently prepared car for Turkey."

Manufacturer 2: Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team / Ford Focus RS WRC04
9 Matthew Wilson / Michael Orr (GB)
10 Kosti Katajamäki / Timo Alanne (FIN)

The M-Sport run Stobart-VK Rally Team has entered two 2004-specification Focus RS WRCs for Britons Matthew Wilson / Michael Orr and Finns Kosti Katajamaki / Timo Alanne.

Manufacturer 2: Red Bull Skoda Team / Skoda Fabia WRC05
11 Harri Rovanperä / Risto Pietiläinen (FIN)
12 Andreas Aigner / Klaus Wicha (A/D)

The two Red Bull Skoda team bosses Raimund Baumschlager and Armin Schwarz expect straight answers from the additional test session in Turkey on Monday: "We'll fly in an engine specialist from Liechtenstein just for that. He is to provide clarification on how the two for us still mysterious incidents did come about in Cyprus. We'll then process the results in time on location. After all we want to have another trouble-free rally with both Fabia WRCs in Turkey, just like we have managed so often throughout the season so far."

Harri Rovanpera: "I presume that the team will get a grip on the Cyprus problems. Of course we only had limited time for preparation, so we all have to work hard. Myself, I'm entirely motivated and I hope to finally bring in drivers' and manufacturers' points this time with a good result in Turkey without any particular problems."

Andreas Aigner: "I ran the shakedown only twice, this was enough to determine that we can go into the rally with a lot of optimism. But the weather conditions, with plenty of rain, should make for a very tough rally."

Leading positions after the first day of the rally:

1. M Grönholm/T Rautiainen FIN Ford Focus RS 57min 25.1sec
2. P Solberg/P Mills N Subaru Impreza 57min 51.2sec
3. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen FIN Ford Focus RS 58min 13.9sec
4. H Solberg/C Menkerud N Peugeot 307 58min 14.6sec
5. K Katajamaki/T Alanne FIN Ford Focus RS 58min 37.3sec
6. C McRae/N Grist GB Citroen Xsara 58min 51.0sec
7. C Atkinson/G MacNeall AUS Subaru Impreza 58min 51.6sec
8. X Pons/C Del Barrio E Citroen Xsara 58min 59.3sec
9. M Stohl/I Minor A Peugeot 307 59min 21.3sec
10 F Duval/ P Pivato B Skoda Fabia 59min 24.9sec

Leg 1 News

Ford’s Marcus Grönholm leads the Rally of Turkey after the opening leg of the 13th round of the FIA World Rally Championship, the Finn pulling out a 26.1 second advantage after 70 kilometres of competition. Second position is held by Subaru World Rally Team driver Petter Solberg, the Norwegian finally enjoying a trouble-free run after months of bad luck and poor performances, while third overall is once again held by Finland’s Mikko Hirvonen. In contrast to the dry conditions for the reconnaissance at the start of the week, monsoon-like conditions during the last two days changed the face of the rally and crews have encountered treacherously muddy and slippery roads today. The opening two stages were also cancelled for safety reasons and rain, thick mud and fog have characterised the day providing a tricky test for the contenders. Marcus Grönholm has led from the outset and the Finn set a blistering pace, pulling out an impressive 24.9 seconds in the first stage alone. In the absence of arch rival and Championship leader Sébastien Loeb - who was forced to withdraw after breaking his arm 10 days ago - Grönholm must claim victory if he has any hope of continuing to fight for the title. Three fastest times in the six stages that were run have aided the Finn but, with more rain forecast tomorrow, the battle ahead looks to be as tricky and unpredictable as ever.

Petter Solberg claimed three fastest stage times during the leg and attributed Subaru’s upturn in performance to hard work and team effort. Changes to the Impreza’s set-up have increased his confidence throughout the day and a reliable and consistent car has rewarded the team with second overnight. Mikko Hirvonen is just 22.7 seconds adrift in third in the second Focus with Henning Solberg (Peugeot 307 WRC) hot on his heels only 0.7 seconds behind in fourth.

Colin McRae - substituting for the injured Loeb - had a promising start in the Citroën Xsara and ran as high as fourth overall after just over a year out of world rally car competition. The Scottish former World Rally Champion then lost time on the wrong tyres in the muddy conditions this afternoon and slipped to sixth at the end of the leg, albeit within striking distance of his rivals. Team-mate Dani Sordo held eighth until he also suffered with his tyre selection and dropped three places. Harri Rovanperä (Skoda) lost 30sec after hitting a rock and damaging the rear left suspension but he was able to limp back to service. The only major retirement was Jan Kopecky (Skoda) who broke his steering on stage 6.

Team News:

Manufacturer 1: Kronos Total Citroen World Rally Team / Citroën Xsara WRC
1 Colin McRae / Nicky Grist (GB)
2 Daniel Sordo / Marc Marti (E)

Colin McRae/Nicky Grist are sixth at the end of an opening leg that was deprived of three special stages in the morning by some truly awful road conditions and weather. Xevi Pons/Carlos Del Barrio occupy eighth place while Dani Sordo/Marc Marti are 11th.

Colin McRae: « I can't pretend that I'm not a bit disappointed. OK, we've lost time, but at least we know exactly why. We had hoped for dry conditions, or at least a clean line, whereas it was muddy from start to finish. However, I'm very happy with my Xsara. I grew in confidence with it as the day went on. It's certainly been an interesting way to get to grips with it ! »

Daniel Sordo: «The positive side was that my Xsara still felt predictable and easy to drive despite that handicap. On SS8 my notes worked well and I had a good feeling - I was hoping for a decent performance. Tomorrow, we will try to make the right tyre choices and climb back up the leaderboard. »

Manufacturer 1: BP- Ford World Rally Team / Ford Focus RS WRC06
3 Marcus Grönholm / Timo Rautiainen (FIN)
4 Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN)

BP-Ford World Rally Team drivers Marcus Grönholm and Timo Rautiainen mastered treacherous conditions to lead the Rally of Turkey after today's weather-hit opening leg. The Finns hold a 26.1sec advantage in their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car following a day in which more than half the competitive distance was cancelled, as torrential rain turned the mountain gravel tracks in the south of the country into a muddy mess. Team-mates Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen lie third. Their similar BP Ultimate and Castrol-branded Focus RS World Rally Car is involved in a battle with the Solberg brothers. The Finns are 26.1sec behind Petter and just 0.7sec ahead of Henning.

Marcus Grönholm/Timo Rautiainen: "It was incredibly difficult this morning. It was so muddy, with surprises everywhere, and it was impossible to attack in those conditions because I could have slid off the road in first gear in that weather. It was just a question of survival. I was surprised how quickly it dried, to the point that the driving line was dry in places. I lost time this afternoon but that was through running first on the road. I cleared the drying mud away from the surface and that left drier conditions for those behind. I haven't driven as aggressively as I would if I was fighting with Sébastien Loeb but I'm not on my own at the front. Petter has been driving quickly and I will have to push hard tomorrow and keep a close watch on his split times. I'm happy to be ahead but the gap is not big enough to relax,"

Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen: "It was like driving on thin ice and the grip changed all the time so I had no idea which parts would be slippery. I think I can push Petter tomorrow. I'm really enjoying battling with other drivers because on the last few rallies I've not had to fight with anyone. I've had to raise my speed and I'm enjoying that. I'm a little frustrated to lose time this morning when I started too steadily but it was just so muddy."

Manufacturer 1: Subaru World Rally Team / Subaru Impreza WRC 2006
5 Petter Solberg / Philip Mills (N/GB)
6 Chris Atkinson/Glen MacNeall (AUS)

Petter Solberg lies in second place overall after an action-packed first Leg of competition on Rally Turkey today. The combination of some shrewd tyres choices and a perfectly reliable car kept Solberg near the top of the leaderboard all day and enabled him to set the fastest time on three stages.

Petter Solberg/Phil Mills: "It's been a very good day actually. The development is clearly going in the right direction and the car is improving all the time. We'll have to keep pushing further and there's still a long way to go to keep looking for the speed, but after today I've got a good feeling."

Chris Atkinson/Glen MacNeall: "We've taken quite a conservative approach to today because of the conditions. The set up changes we made earlier have made the car a bit easier to handle in the rough stuff and we're happy that we are driving to the plan. I'm sure that we can take some time out of the guys ahead and hopefully make up some positions."

Manufacturer 2: OMV Peugeot Norway World Rally Team / Peugeot 307 WRC
7 Manfred Stohl / Ilka Minor (A)
8 Henning Solberg / Cato Menkerud (N)

The OMV Peugeot Norway World Rally Team is represented by one team in the absolute top field - Henning Solberg and Cato Menkerud. The Norwegian OMV duo lies in fourth place after leg one. They are only 0,7 seconds behind a place on the podium. Manfred Stohl and Ilka Minor got off to a worse start. Following problems in the beginning they nevertheless fought their way up to current ninth overall place. Their goal is to score points which should be possible if the course dries up.

Manfred Stohl/Ilka Minor: "We are not satisfied with our performance. The right feeling is also missing. Sometimes I think that we're on a good way but the times speak a different language. And there is also the problem that we can't optimally accelerate out of the turns. Right now we hope that things will be better on Saturday. If the course dries up this should work out."

Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud: "The duel with my brother gives me wings. Today we already achieved two second-best overall times. Too bad that three special stages were cancelled and one was abridged today. For these conditions really suit us."

Manufacturer 2: Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team / Ford Focus RS WRC04
9 Matthew Wilson / Michael Orr (GB)
10 Kosti Katajamäki / Timo Alanne (FIN)

Friday the 13th didn't prove too much concern for the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team in Rally Turkey as the cars of Kosti Katajamaki and Matthew Wilson came home in 5th and 14th respectively.

Matthew Wilson: "These are the worst conditions that I've ever driven in. We had lots of under steer which made it so tricky and also the road surfaces were so changeable, there was just no grip."

Kosti Katajamaki: "I am happy with how things went today although the conditions were very difficult. I actually prefer it when it is wet and slippery instead of when it is drying out. I'm hoping for more rain tomorrow!"

Manufacturer 2: Red Bull Skoda Team / Skoda Fabia WRC05
11 Harri Rovanperä / Risto Pietiläinen (FIN)
12 Andreas Aigner / Klaus Wicha (A/D)

The two Fabia WRCs of Red Bull Skoda were running at a variable pace today, on the first leg of the Rally of Turkey. In the beginning it was Andreas Aigner who made everyone take notice with P7, but subsequently his times tailed off slightly. After his mishap in the morning when he had returned to the Kemer service park on three wheels, Harri Rovanpera was able to show his speed on the final stages of the afternoon, his reward was a seventh-fastest special stage time as well.

Harri Rovanpera: (After SS3) "It was very slippery, and it all went very fast. I wasn't able to avoid the rock because of all the mud on the road. We can be glad that we were even able to return to service on three wheels."

Andreas Aigner: "It was incredibly difficult to choose the right pace in conditions like these without running off the road. Each and every corner is giving you goose bumps since you don't know whether or not there will be enough grip. Quite slowly we got used to these conditions, so I hope we can continue like that. We even had a mascot in the car: For some unknown reason we had a lizard as a stowaway on SS 3."

Leading positions after the second day of the rally:

1. M Grönholm/T Rautiainen FIN Ford Focus RS 2hr 49min 50.4sec
2. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen FIN Ford Focus RS 2hr 51min 55.6sec
3. H Solberg/C Menkerud N Peugeot 307 2hr 52min 36.0sec
4. C Atkinson/G MacNeall AUS Subaru Impreza 2hr 52min 54.4sec
5. K Katajamaki/T Alanne FIN Ford Focus RS 2hr 52min 56.1sec
6. X Pons/C Del Barrio E Citroen Xsara 2hr 53min 19.9sec
7. C McRae/N Grist GB Citroen Xsara 2hr 53min 34.6sec
8. F Duval/ P Pivato B Skoda Fabia 2hr 54min 02.6sec
9. M Stohl/I Minor A Peugeot 307 2hr 54min 12.1sec
10 D Sordo/M Marti E Citroen Xsara 2hr 54min 18.4sec

Driver's comments after Leg 2

Leg 2 News

Finland’s Marcus Grönholm has extended his lead during the second leg of the Rally of Turkey and looks to be in a position to maintain a Championship fight in the absence of series leader Sébastien Loeb. Maximum points to slash the deficit to Loeb are critical and while the Finn now has a two minute 05.2 second advantage over Ford team-mate Mikko Hirvonen, tricky and unpredictable conditions guarantee nothing. Petter Solberg, second throughout the leg and winner of two stages today, crashed in the penultimate stage and retired from the leg. Ironically it was brother Henning Solberg who benefited and moved into third overnight. While conditions have been markedly better than yesterday, inconsistent levels of grip on the muddy mountain roads have made tyre choice difficult. And, while the rain held off for most of the day, a heavy hailstorm in the penultimate stage added yet another dimension to the 13th round of the FIA World Rally Championship.

Marcus Grönholm and Petter Solberg (Subaru) have been battling hard throughout the leg, the two Scandinavians split by mere seconds and sharing stage wins in their fight for victory. Grönholm nevertheless inched out his advantage and was then handed the comfortable lead he so desperately needs when rival Petter Solberg retired from the leg. The Subaru driver hit a rock in stage 15 which launched the car off the road and into a ditch, where he was forced to retire from the leg and watch a potential best result in months disappear. Grönholm’s team-mate Mikko Hirvonen - winner of two stages - now claims second and, with Henning Solberg nearly three minutes adrift of Grönholm, the Finn couldn’t have hoped for a better overnight result with just three stages to be run tomorrow. Chris Atkinson is now flying the flag for Subaru and the Australian has climbed from seventh to fourth. Kosti Katajamaki, in another Ford, holds a close fifth with Xavier Pons (Citroën Xsara) rounding off the top six. Britain’s Colin McRae, drafted in to replace the injured Sébastien Loeb, is seventh overnight. A combination of the wrong tyres and a set-up too hard for the wet conditions has conspired against the former World Rally Champion.

Team News:

Manufacturer 1: Kronos Total Citroen World Rally Team / Citroën Xsara WRC
1 Colin McRae / Nicky Grist (GB)
2 Daniel Sordo / Marc Marti (E)

Xevi Pons/Carlos Del Barrio occupy sixth place tonight, leading the Citroen Xsara line-up. Colin McRae/Nicky Grist are immediately behind them, while Dani Sordo/Marc Marti have climbed back into the top 10. All three Xsaras are in a position to score driver or manufacturer points, and the crews will be trying to improve their totals on the short final leg..

Colin McRae: «I've not enjoyed it, what with the hail in Chimera that would have made even walking difficult, and that horrible stage where Dani set an excellent fastest time. It's the sort of thing that you just want to get over with. Tomorrow I'm hoping for normal conditions, so that we can up our pace and end the rally on a positive note. »

Daniel Sordo: «With our '8' compound BFGoodrich tyres cut appropriately, we had an incredible amount of grip, » he said. «I was told to be wary of the lack of grip in Chimera but after a few corners I felt very confident. I could not avoid the rock that caused our puncture : I saw it at the last minute and it was right on the racing line. I'm not as high up the order as I would have liked, but there are many positive aspects to this rally : in particular my excellent feeling with the Xsara and the quality of our notes. I set two fourth-fastest times on stages I didn't know and I took my first stage win on gravel. It's been a good day ! »

Manufacturer 1: BP- Ford World Rally Team / Ford Focus RS WRC06
3 Marcus Grönholm / Timo Rautiainen (FIN)
4 Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN)

BP-Ford World Rally Team lies first and second in the Rally of Turkey tonight after another day of treacherously slippery competition in the southern mountains. Marcus Grönholm and Timo Rautiainen, who powered to the front in the opening kilometres yesterday, ended the second leg of this three-day event with a 2min 05.2sec lead in their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car. Team-mates Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen hold second in a similar Focus RS.

Marcus Grönholm/Timo Rautiainen: "I'm in a pretty good position so I hope that tomorrow I can keep my lead. It is better to have a big lead than a 30sec advantage. I feel confident and the car is strong but you can never tell. Petter was pushing quite hard and I needed to keep a close eye on his times because he was on my mind quite a bit."

Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen: "I was driving on the maximum most of the time this morning, although there were some places where I could have pushed a little more. Henning was pushing hard behind me so I couldn't afford to make mistakes. On the last few events I have been able to drive cautiously to save the car but that's not the case here. I have a strong car and I was driving flat out. Once I heard Petter had retired I eased off, but that's not always a good thing because you lose your rhythm. Second would be a great result, but I must remember that tomorrow won't be easy."

Manufacturer 1: Subaru World Rally Team / Subaru Impreza WRC 2006
5 Petter Solberg / Philip Mills (N/GB)
6 Chris Atkinson/Glen MacNeall (AUS)

Subaru World Rally Team driver Chris Atkinson made up three places during today's second Leg of Rally Turkey to end the day fourth overall. With three more stages left to run on Sunday, Atkinson is carrying the flag for Subaru after a stage winning performance from Petter Solberg was brought to an end by a rock on the day's penultimate test. Solberg is expected to re-join the event tomorrow.

Petter Solberg/Phil Mills: 'We came around a corner and the car hit a rock in the road. We bounced off the stage and into a ditch. I can't believe this after we've had so many positives earlier in the rally. It was an incredible feeling to again be fighting at the top, and it's very good to see that everyone's hard work is showing with more speed. There's still more to do, but we're getting back again.'

Chris Atkinson/Glen MacNeall: "The conditions on those last two mountain stages were very difficult. We went for a steady run and were cautious trying not to get caught out by the snow, ice or mud. There's no need to be a hero, however we've again moved up and are in fourth position. Tomorrow we will just continue this approach and try and make up more time and positions.'

Manufacturer 2: OMV Peugeot Norway World Rally Team / Peugeot 307 WRC
7 Manfred Stohl / Ilka Minor (A)
8 Henning Solberg / Cato Menkerud (N)

It could be another magic moment for the OMV Peugeot Norway World Rally Team at the "Rally of Turkey". After day two the Norwegian OMV duo Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud lies in sensational third place. Should this still be true on Sunday it would mean the second podium place, after Mexico (Manfred Stohl), for the team and Bozian-Racing. But there are still three special stages to go and considering the varying conditions in Turkey a lot could yet happen.

Manfred Stohl/Ilka Minor: "I hope the weather forecast will prove right and the sun will shine on Sunday. That would definitely heighten our chances."

Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud: "There is still a lot of hard work ahead. Especially when it rains since we only have used rain tyres and Atkinson is just 18,4 seconds behind us. But we are determined not to let the podium slip away. We're on track and know that we can get there under our own steam."

Manufacturer 2: Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team / Ford Focus RS WRC04
9 Matthew Wilson / Michael Orr (GB)
10 Kosti Katajamäki / Timo Alanne (FIN)

The Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team drove through four seasons in one day at Rally Turkey. Kosti Katajamaki finished Leg 2 in 5th showing he can handle all conditions and he even got some of his favourite surface - snow. Meanwhile Matt Wilson consistently ploughed on through the mud and finished in 13th position. Kosti, who suffered a puncture and hand brake problems during the morning stages, set some lightening times this afternoon as the thunder raged over the Turkish mountains. Matt and co-driver Michael Orr, who dislocated a vertebra on a stage yesterday, solved some their under steer issues but just as they were getting comfortable in the conditions, they were met with all sorts of unexpected occurrences!

Kosti Katajamaki: "I am happy with today and to retain my fifth position overnight. Tomorrow I will be pushing hard to try and catch Chris Atkinson. It great to show that I can be as quick as the regular drivers in the WRC," said the Finn who is competing in just selected rounds of the championship.

Matthew Wilson: "I sit so low that I can't see out the window so I kept trying to sit up to see what the white stuff was all over the road. It wasn't until we braked and I heard a whoosh that I thought, it must be snowing! It has been tricky for us again today. I started making up some time when we sorted the under steer problem but then it started raining again and the conditions were horrendous. I've never driven in anything like this, we've had flooding, snow and sunshine - unbelievable!" said Wilson, who is the youngest driver to score points in the WRC.

Team Manager Malcolm Wilson added: "It has been a good day for the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team. Kosti has driven really well and kept the pressure on the boys in front. Whilst Matt keeps building his experience which is so important, especially in extreme conditions like here. Both cars just need to finish the 50 kilometres tomorrow."

Manufacturer 2: Red Bull Skoda Team / Skoda Fabia WRC05
11 Harri Rovanperä / Risto Pietiläinen (FIN)
12 Andreas Aigner / Klaus Wicha (A/D)

The Red Bull Skoda drivers were able to slightly improve their overall positions, but it was even more gratifying that Aigner's and Rovanpera's pace has been improving substantially today. Aigner managed a sensational fourth-fastest time on SS 14, ahead of people like Colin McRae, Mikko Hirvonen and Manfred Stohl. On stages 10 and 15 the Styrian finished tenth and seventh. Harri Rovanpera too was pushing hard and was able to post a ninth-fastest time on SS 11.

Harri Rovanpera: "I tried to push all the time and drove right on the limit. Unfortunately I had two tyre failures on a single stage which again lost me a lot of time. The conditions on the special stages were very hard to assess and very changeable, there was still a lot of mud on the road."

Andreas Aigner: "It was a lot of fun, Raimund had already told me that we had fitted the right tyres. I'm very satisfied with today's peformance, a further two top ten times in addition to my fourth-fastest time are good results."

Final positions after the third day of the rally:

1. M Grönholm/T Rautiainen FIN Ford Focus RS 3hr 28min 16.3sec
2. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen FIN Ford Focus RS 3hr 30min 39.7sec
3. H Solberg/C Menkerud N Peugeot 307 3hr 31min 22.3sec
4. X Pons/C Del Barrio E Citroen Xsara 3hr 31min 43.7sec
5. K Katajamaki/T Alanne FIN Ford Focus RS 3hr 31min 44.8sec
6. C Atkinson/G MacNeall AUS Subaru Impreza 3hr 31min 52.8sec
7. D Sordo/M Marti E Citroen Xsara 3hr 32min 41.1sec
8. M Stohl/I Minor A Peugeot 307 3hr 32min 46.6sec
9. F Duval/ P Pivato B Skoda Fabia 3hr 33min 51.9sec
10 A Aigner/K Wicha A Skoda Fabia 3hr 35min 13.7sec

Driver's comments after Leg 3

Leg 3 News

The BP-Ford World Rally Team crew of Marcus Grönholm and Timo Rautiainen kept their Championship hopes alive today with a commanding win in the Rally of Turkey, the 13th round of the FIA World Rally Championship. The Finnish duo led from start to finish claiming victory over team-mate Mikko Hirvonen by two minutes and 23.4 seconds. Third position was taken by Norway’s Henning Solberg, his first WRC podium position. In the battle for the Drivers’ Championship, Grönholm has slashed the deficit to Sébastien Loeb, claiming maximum points in the absence of the injured Frenchman. It marks his fifth win of the season and puts him to within 25 points of the reigning World Champion with an available 30 points remaining. Hirvonen’s second position sees him overhaul Daniel Sordo to take third in the series. In the FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers, it was a dream result for Ford and they now move ahead of the Kronos Total Citroën World Rally Team who scored just three points. Marcus Grönholm drove the perfect rally, the Finnish Ford Focus driver leading from the outset. After two days battling with Subaru’s Petter Solberg, Grönholm was then handed a massive advantage when the Norwegian was forced to retire from yesterday’s leg when he went off the road. With just three stages remaining today, and team-mate Mikko Hirvonen in second position, the Finn could ease the pace and head an impressive Ford one-two at the finish in Kemer this afternoon.

For Henning Solberg (Peugeot 307 WRC), third overall marks the best result of his WRC career and moves him ahead of younger brother Petter in the Championship standings. Finland’s Kosti Katajamaki (Ford Focus) was fourth going into the last stage but then lost power due to high oil and gearbox temperatures. He dropped to fifth behind Xavier Pons. Chris Atkinson dropped from fourth to sixth after a spin in the penultimate stage but was the lead Subaru at the finish. Britain’s Colin McRae - replacing the injured Loeb - was on course for seventh, but stopped in the final stage with alternator problems.

Team News:

Manufacturer 1: Kronos Total Citroen World Rally Team / Citroën Xsara WRC
1 Colin McRae / Nicky Grist (GB)
2 Daniel Sordo / Marc Marti (E)

The final leg of the Rally of Turkey on Sunday was short, consisting of three special stages made up of 51 competitive kilometres. However, Kronos Racing's two young Spaniards put it to excellent use. Xevi Pons and Dani Sordo concluded an excellent rally by making up two and three places respectively on the final day. Pons ended up just off the podium, while reigning Junior World Champion Sordo was seventh. Colin McRae/Nicky Grist were forced into retirement on the final stage with an alternator problem.

Colin McRae: Retired

Daniel Sordo: «I was here in Turkey for the first time. It's a nice rally and quite specialised. From the beginning I had a Xsara that was forgiving and easy to drive : exactly what you need in these conditions. My notes were accurate, and there were not too many surprises. OK, on Friday I went for a tyre choice that was hardly ideal. On the other hand, I set some quick times on the first run through some of the stages, I also set my first fastest time on gravel - which is something I won't forget - and finally I finished the rally pushing hard. It's all very encouraging. »

Manufacturer 1: BP- Ford World Rally Team / Ford Focus RS WRC06
3 Marcus Grönholm / Timo Rautiainen (FIN)
4 Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN)

BP-Ford World Rally Team claimed a magnificent 1-2 finish on the Rally of Turkey today to move into the lead of the FIA World Rally Championship. Marcus Grönholm and Timo Rautiainen led from start to finish in their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car to secure their fifth victory of the season in treacherously slippery conditions. The Finns won by 2min 23.4sec from team-mates Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen, who equalled their career-best result in another Focus RS.

Marcus Grönholm/Timo Rautiainen: "To win with no problems in such tricky conditions is a fantastic achievement from the whole team. Yesterday was one of the worst days I have seen in the WRC. It was a difficult rally with so much mud and I felt far more relaxed when I no longer had to push after Petter Solberg retired yesterday. It was incredibly hard to attack on roads that were so slippery it was difficult to stand up."

Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen: "This has been a really strong weekend from the team and a very important result. We made no mistakes which is excellent in these tough conditions. They constantly changed and we even saw hail yesterday. I was confident before the start because I knew changes to the set-up of my car would benefit me and I would be quicker. It is fantastic to have a 1-2 finish for Ford and Finland. We had such a good car and it was a good team effort. There are three more rallies and I hope for three more podiums."

Manufacturer 1: Subaru World Rally Team / Subaru Impreza WRC 2006
5 Petter Solberg / Philip Mills (N/GB)
6 Chris Atkinson/Glen MacNeall (AUS)

Subaru World Rally Team driver Chris Atkinson finished sixth on Rally Turkey today after a tense final Leg of competition which brought multiple changes to the top ten. Atkinson started the day in a realistic pursuit of third place, but a small mistake on the second test dropped him into the frantic battle for fourth instead. After 351 stage kilometres in some extremely difficult conditions, Chris finished the rally just nine seconds adrift of fourth place and 30.5 seconds off the podium. After retiring on the second Leg, Petter Solberg restarted today to test different settings for the forthcoming gravel events. Solberg set the quickest time on two of the three stages.

Petter Solberg/Phil Mills: "Apart from hitting the rock yesterday, the rally was actually quite good for us. The car has improved and we enjoyed being back again where we should be. Of course we are not happy with the overall result, but we're happy with the performance. We'll keep pushing harder as we know there is still much more to come."

Chris Atkinson/Glen MacNeall: "It's been a tricky weekend as the speed is encouraging but still we want better results. We struggled with the set-up all weekend and trying to find the right balance, so it's good to get to the finish. We're sure to be trying in Australia as it's my home rally and we led there last year and want to get a strong result."

Manufacturer 2: OMV Peugeot Norway World Rally Team / Peugeot 307 WRC
7 Manfred Stohl / Ilka Minor (A)
8 Henning Solberg / Cato Menkerud (N)

The OMV Peugeot Norway World Rally Team has reason to celebrate at the "Rally of Turkey". Following Manfred Stohl in Mexico, OMV Teammate Henning Solberg also reached the podium on Sunday. This also means the first top 3 place in the FIA World Rally Championship for the 33-year-old Norwegian. A competitive performance on the final day won Manfred Stohl and Ilka Minor one WRC-point in the driver ranking. In the manufacture ranking the OMV Peugeot Norway World Rally Team took no less than eight points.

Manfred Stohl/Ilka Minor: "We tried everything and on Sunday we were really fast. I didn't lose seventh place just on the last special stage. In any case it is one point won and we can leave Turkey with our heads held high. I nevertheless expect top results for the next rallies once again."

Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud: "When we reached the finish of the SS Cato suddenly started to cry. I couldn't help myself and joined in. It is such a wonderful day for us. I'd like to thank my family, Bozian Racing and my sponsors who have made such happiness possible for me."

Manufacturer 2: Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team / Ford Focus RS WRC04
9 Matthew Wilson / Michael Orr (GB)
10 Kosti Katajamäki / Timo Alanne (FIN)

 

Manufacturer 2: Red Bull Skoda Team / Skoda Fabia WRC05
11 Harri Rovanperä / Risto Pietiläinen (FIN)
12 Andreas Aigner / Klaus Wicha (A/D)

On the final day of the 7th Rally of Turkey in Kemer, the sun shone permanently for the first time after the disastrous weather conditions of the days before. Red Bull Skoda was able to bring both Fabia WRCs to the finishing line without any problems this time despite the difficult and very changeable conditions.

Harri Rovanpera: "I had no technical problems whatsoever this time. Personally, I expected a bit more from my rally in Turkey. Unfortunately, losing the wheel on the first day cost me more than a minute for sure, and it's simply impossible to make that up again."

Andreas Aigner: "On the first day I still felt a bit insecure because of the heavy rain and the loads of mud on the road, but I'm very happy with the second and the third day. We, and I'm referring to the entire team, have taken another big step up the ladder, and I want to thank everybody, including my co-driver Klaus Wicha. Obviously I'm feeling very good right now, I can really push on each and every stage already which makes me particularly happy. I hope that I'll be able to repeat that in December at the conclusion of the WRC season in Wales."


FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
RALLY OF TURKEY
Media FIA Post-event Press Conference
15.10.2006

Present:
1st - Marcus Grönholm - BP Ford World Rally Team
1st - Timo Rautiainen -BP Ford World Rally Team
2nd - Mikko Hirvonen - BP Ford World Rally Team
2nd - Jarmo Lehtinen - BP Ford World Rally Team
3rd - Henning Solberg - OMV Team Peugeot Norway
3rd - Cato Menkerud - OMV Team Peugeot Norway
Representative of the winning manufacturer, BP-Ford World Rally Team, Malcolm Wilson

Welcome to the post-event FIA press conference.

Q:
Marcus, congratulations on another victory. In order to stand a chance of winning the Championship at all this year, you had to win really. You’ve done that, so does it bring your chances of a third World Championship any closer? Are you beginning to think now that maybe, just maybe, it’s possible? Did you come under any pressure at all throughout the three days? Petter Solberg seemed to be going quickly yesterday afternoon before he went off.

MG:
Okay, there is a possibility on paper and maybe we can do it. We need to be 100 per cent finishing and doing the best we can, then it also depends when Seb is coming back. I’m not thinking about that, more important is to win the Manufacturers Championship. It is possible, but not easy. I cannot say anything more, we will see. Okay, yesterday, Petter was pushing in the muddy conditions and I didn’t want to take any risk. Sometimes he was beating me by nine or ten seconds, okay. So, it was not easy, then when he went off it was much easier for me.

Q:
Timo, congratulations. What is your perspective on the Championship battle? Do you believe that Marcus can do it? Obviously a major talking point of this rally was the weather; just how bad were the conditions? Is this some of the worst weather you’ve seen? How complicated was the tyre choice? Did you worry at any point that you might throw your lead away?

TR:
Yes, like Marcus says it is possible and I believe we can finish in the right positions. We need to win and take two second positions or something and Sébastien needs to feel very comfy at home, recover there and have a nice holiday! Like Marcus, I’m not thinking about this. Instead we are taking care of the Manufacturer points. Most stages were okay, driveable and nice stages. When it’s raining some of the stages change their nature completely, when it’s like this I don’t want to be in the car. I had to do this on two stages on Friday and I did not enjoy it. The tyre choice was not so difficult; we started in full rain, so we took the softest compound. We did the perfect tyre choice every time. BF Goodrich offered us the best solution for every stage, so we have no complaints.

Q:
Mikko, congratulations on another second place; good for you and very good for Ford. This cannot have been an easy rally for you as Henning Solberg was never far away. How pleased are you with your performance? There were a number of stages when you were right on the pace of Marcus; would you say that this was one of your strongest rallies this year, under the difficult circumstances?

MH:
I’m really pleased. Like you said, Henning pushed hard all the time and Petter wasn’t too far – we tried to catch him as well. That wasn’t the easiest in these conditions. The car was great and no mistakes from me; the perfect weekend. Maybe not the strongest one, but it was good. In Cyprus we didn’t have the pace, but I was confident when we got the confidence back we would be back with Marcus and we were there on this event.

Q:
Jarmo, congratulations. A very tough rally, where you had to fight all the way. There was obviously the battle with Henning Solberg that we’ve already mentioned but did you think you might be able to catch Petter Solberg, who was in front of you for the first two days? With such a tight battle for the Manufacturers’ Championship, how much pressure were you and Mikko under?

JL:
It would have been possible if the weather stayed like it was in the morning on the second loop, but when Petter attacked in the rain we decided to back off, follow the splits and take third place. There was some pressure of course; we need to secure as good points as possible. It’s been a good part of the job and I think we’ve done a good job.

Q:
Malcolm, congratulations on the first one-two since Mexico 2004, on what was probably the most crucial rally of the year in terms of the Manufacturers’ Championship. Before the start of the rally, when the weather was so bad it was threatening to blow down your Happy Hour (press reception), how confident did you feel of a result like this? Was this a particularly nerve-wracking rally for you? How did you feel on the final day, knowing you could only lose first and second? How confident does this make you for the Manufacturers’ title?

MW:
We said all along we could challenge for victory on every rally, we’ve seen Mikko supporting Marcus, and we’ve seen that again here. The full credit goes to the drivers to get a one-two in these conditions. We always had the right tyres, perfect result. We’d advised all of the guys after we heard about Seb’s situation, we were still behind. If we did get ahead, all we could do was throw it away. Now we have to be more careful, these drivers are more than capable, we just have to make sure we give them the car to do it. I think it wasn’t so bad, and in fairness, it’s different to being in a big battle with Sébastien, as has been the case so many times. The rally has been under control from Marcus and Mikko, so it wasn’t anything as difficult as rallies before. As I said, it’s in our hands. We can only throw it away. Believe me, I’ve been trying to get the number one for 10 years – everybody in M-Sport will be giving 100 per cent to make sure we get the job done.

Q:
Henning, congratulations on your first podium in the FIA World Rally Championship, a magnificent achievement. How does it feel to finally be here? You had a fantastic battle with Mikko Hirvonen, which we spoke about earlier, how hard did you push him? Was there a chance of getting past him? You also had a good fight with your brother – what did that feel like?

HS:
I think it’s the first time we have cried in the car, two tough guys. He started crying, so I had to join him. It’s not easy being the big brother to Petter, but I’m catching him step by step. I always try to fight, but the two last stages last night I tried to, it was my choice to take the wrong tyres. We went a lot of seconds behind. You can never give up. On the next last stage a brake pipe broke in the car. I have been a mechanic since I was six years old, so I worked hard and fixed it. We weren’t very fast, but we could make it and I’m very happy with third place. It feels very good to be close to Petter. He has all the experience on all these rallies and it feels good to be closer to the top. It’s not easy, you have to work hard.

Q:
Cato, was this one of the most difficult rallies you have done? The weather seemed to be changing all the time. Did you have good information on which to base your tyre choices, or did you have some nasty moments as well?

CM:
For me, it was the most difficult rally ever; very hard. The tyre choice was quite easy as it was mud all over – not so bad. We had some moments when there was water around the corner. It went well.

Q:
As we mentioned earlier Marcus, this rally was characterised by bad weather. What did you think of the three stage cancellations on the first day? Was it the right decision not to run the stages? Were you worried about the rally going down to just half points and not giving you the chance to fight for the Championship? Normally we’ve seen you and Sébastien in a very tight battle – what was it like not having him there? Did you feel under less pressure than usual or not? Now we head to Australia – a very different rally and one that you like – how confident are you feeling? What are your chances of another win there?

MG:
A little bit worried (about half points), yes. The first day when we couldn’t do the first stage, then the second – it was a little like that. But then the weather changed and we could do all the stages. It was the right decision (to cancel them). The first one was so muddy and there was no visibility – it was a good thing to cancel. Petter was speeding up. Okay, maybe the last few seconds, I didn’t have to push for them – but still it was not an easy rally. I think Rally Australia will be okay. I like that rally quite a lot. The only thing is that I have to be first on the road – that can be a little problem, but I hope not a lot.

Q:
Can you think of any ways in which you could improve the event?

TR:
The weather. The stages are nice and fluent and I like the route itself. The weather we cannot change, but some of those stages change and become dangerous – they’re not nice at all to drive on like that.

Q:
You’ve also overtaken Dani Sordo now to claim third in the Drivers’ Championship; how confident do you feel of being able to hold onto that for the rest of the year? What do you think of Rally Australia, coming up next? Will you be driving to take a top result for yourself, or maximum Manufacturer points for the team?

MH:
From my point of view I’m quite confident, there are still three races to go. We have to do everything properly and it’s not finished yet. The priority is the Manufacturers’ Championship. We’ve passed Kronos Citroën, so there is a little room to breathe. For Rally Australia; both. It’s a rally I really enjoy. The nature of the stages are the ones I enjoy the most – you really have to be flat out and see how it goes.
Q:
You’re getting more and more accustomed to standing on the podium; do you feel that the first victory is not far away now? What do you think it will take?

JL:
Yes. Rallies like this take a little bit of luck. Yesterday and Friday when the conditions were okay and we pushed a little bit, we weren’t so far from Marcus’s pace. It’s not so far away, I think.

Q:
You are in the fortunate position of being one of the few drivers who has a guaranteed budget and a guaranteed place in the FIA World Rally Championship next season. Tell us about your sponsorship deal and what plans you have for 2007. When do you think that your programme might be finalised?

HS:
I will drive a full season for sure. It’s a two-year deal in a very good car.

Q:
Your current team, OMV Peugeot Norway, has said that its ambition is to overtake Subaru for third in the Manufacturers’ Championship. You’ve come a little bit closer to that objective here; how realistic do you think it is? What is the strategy now for the rest of the season?

CM:
We can fight for that position, but of course it’s difficult. We will try. We do the last three rallies. I hope we can fight for the podium.

HS:
We’re also ahead of Petter (Solberg) in the Championship – that’s very important. It will be a good Christmas!

Q:
Final word with you Malcolm. Here you are, with two cars on the podium, leading the Manufacturers’ Championship. It must make you very proud, when less than two years ago there were doubts as to whether or not Ford would even be here. On the strength of this performance, how confident are you of Marcus’ chances of sneaking the Drivers’ title this year – or is that next year’s project?

MW:
I think most of it’s been covered to be honest. It all depends on Sébastien’s recovery. As I said, we can challenge for victory on all the events, but a little bit will be out of our hands if he comes back. One fifth place and the title is his. If he doesn’t come back, there’s every chance but that puts more pressure on the team. We would need one more win and two seconds if he doesn’t come back. It’s very difficult to answer until we know whether Sébastien is coming back.

FIA JUNIOR WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

1st - Urmo Aava
1st - Kuldar Sikk

Q:
Urmo, an action-packed final day, how have you won?

UA:
We started the day in second. Unfortunately, we had two punctures. The biggest problem was the puncture on the second day. What happened to P-G (Andersson) was tough. I think I’m not the right person to comment on what happened to P-G, something technical.

Q:
When you came here, did you expect to be in a position to fight?

UA:
Yes, every driver comes to win. We were driving good. Yes, we were thinking about winning and being in the top position.

Q:
Does this win make up for the disappointment in Corsica?

UA:
That’s a really difficult question to answer. I don’t like to think like that. It would be perfect if the fastest guy wins, but the life is different. It’s hard to answer.

Q:
How was the JWRC car in these slippery conditions; how difficult was it to find traction?

KS:
I think the Turkish Rally this year has been one of the toughest rallies I’ve ever done on the stages and yes, the traction was difficult, sometimes it was a little boring going up the hill – there was wheel spin but we were not going anywhere.

Q:
What about the Championship now?

UA:
It makes the Championship quite interesting. We can see who is the winner in GB. I think I’m leading. There can be only one plan – to be fastest in GB. For sure, it’s not going to be easy. We drive almost at winter time. I think we find ice there and on gravel tyres, that’s not funny.

Q:
And Kuldar, what do you think?

KS:
I am looking forward to it. It’s interesting to see the Championship so tight. We will see what happens in GB.