Rally Turkey officials will monitor dust levels on Friday’s opening stage of the fifth round of the World Rally Championship, with the clerk of the course ready to increase the gap between cars to four minutes from the second stage onwards.
Defending world champion Ott Tänak described the problem as “critical”, with the drivers unanimously voicing concerns at the levels of dust expected on slow-speed, loose-gravel roads where temperatures will hover in the 90Fs with no chance of rain.
Tänak told DirtFish: “We saw on the recce that the dust was already difficult – especially in the areas where there’s less gravel, the dust seems to be really hanging there. The dust thing will be critical.”
M-Sport Ford World Rally Team driver Esapekka Lappi agreed the recce had underlined the problem, adding: “We started Sunday’s long stage five minutes after the car in front on the recce – after 500 metres we faced a wall of dust.
“You probably need 10 minutes for the dust to go. That’s not possible, but for sure we’re going to face dust and we need to try to push for more time.”
Asked if gaps of five minutes – up from three – would be enough, Lappi added: “It would help if we have five minutes, but then it takes a lot of time for all the cars to go through – it extends the itinerary. But we will push [for this].”
Championship leader Sébastien Ogier will enjoy cleaner air at the front of the field, but the grip beneath his Toyota Yaris WRC will be compromised as he sweeps the line of the loose stones, improving grip for those following.
Asked by DirtFish if he would prefer to be running on a cleaner road in the dust or on a more slippery road in clear air, Lappi’s fellow factory Fiesta WRC driver Teemu Suninen said: “That’s a difficult question – it looks like all the drivers are always complaining that all the other drivers have better conditions!
“We must be happy that we are starting, let’s say, on the good position where it will be cleaner on the road and let’s hope the dust isn’t getting too bad for us.
“But it would be great to lead the championship right now. Maybe some year this will happen.”
Suninen added that the main concern lay with Friday’s late afternoon and early evening stages, when the sun will sit lower in the sky and dust tends to hang longer with less wind to blow it through the trees.
“I hope we get bigger gaps to let the dust go down a bit,” he added, “we start to have some more dark time [on Friday night] and that’s not ideal for us.”
A spokesman from the event told DirtFish: “The clerk of the course will monitor the situation in the first stage.
“We start with three-minute gaps and we can increase this to four if we need to.”