Turkey stages “a lot riskier” than last year

The WRC's top drivers know the risks of going for a better road position for Saturday

Dani Sordo

Leading World Rally Championship drivers have expressed the need for a balanced approach to this weekend’s Rally Turkey, with Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville saying the stages are “a lot riskier” than they were last year.

Turkey is expected to be the biggest test of the cars on this year’s WRC calendar, and drivers have already spoken of the importance of securing a good road position for Saturday and Sunday, the first of which will be determined by the results of Friday’s two stages.

Neuville said the organizer’s work on regrading the roads with big rocks leaves the cars – and more specifically the tires – more vulnerable this week.

“It all depends on the driving style, whether you go full-out and risk it or try to take it easy and not get a puncture,” he said.

“I feel the roads are a lot more demanding than last year, a lot riskier for the cars.

“The organizers have worked on the roads since last year and there are a lot of big rocks.

“You don’t want to go too slowly on the first two stages but you know that you will be taking a risk by going fast.”

The Marmaris-based event has not been a happy hunting ground for Neuville in the past two years; a broken shock absorber in 2018 and an off-road excursion last year cost the Belgian a shot at the podium places.

“This is a rally where you have to do a lot of scanning, the risk of punctures here is very high, the conditions are very difficult,” said Neuville, who is fifth in the standings.

“A lot of it will be making sure you save the car.

Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul

“We need to make the most out of the rally and take the maximum amount of points this weekend.

“We have to go for it from the start in order to guarantee the best road position on Saturday.”

Toyota’s Elfyn Evans shared Neuville’s view, saying that it would be impossible to drive ‘carelessly’ on the opening day.

He instead insisted that driving “a little bit clever” would be the key to securing a better running position on Saturday.

“You can’t drive completely careless or touch every bank or go in every ditch because of course you’re going to pick [up] a problem or damage the car or have a puncture or something,” Evans said.

“So, of course you have to drive a little bit clever but at the same time you can’t expect to cruise around and win at the finish.

“It’s about who can find that balance best between going quickly and of course looking after everything, not making mistakes and picking up punctures or damage of course.”

Evans’ Toyota team-mate and six-time world champion Sébastien Ogier identified Sunday’s longest stage – the 23.7-mile Çetibeli test, which will be run twice – as the toughest of the rally.

“There is a section where it seems to have improved in road condition, but it’s not everywhere,” Ogier explained.

“The long stage on Sunday morning which we will do twice at the end of the rally, that’ll be tough, even for someone who is lucky enough to find themselves at the top with a good lead, I don’t think he’ll go into Sunday completely relaxed with what is awaiting us then.”

Evans added: “There are a lot of loose rocks and the surface of the stage is very hard.

“There’s obviously been running water in there at some point so a lot of the inside of the corners have a lot of big rocks and stones lying in there, so it’ll be very easy to puncture that’s for sure. And it will be a tough test for Sunday, that’s guaranteed.”