Why strategy in Turkey isn’t just about WRC’s top class

Rally2 drivers have to face the same trade-off between speed and caution as the World Rally Cars

Much has been made of how the Marmaris-based Rally Turkey’s rough roads will put the current generation of WRC cars to the test, with both Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville and Toyota’s Elfyn Evans believing a balance of attack and trepidation will be key to protecting the cars.

The less robust Rally2 cars are set to have it equally difficult on one of the most demanding events of the season.

Toksport WRT’s Pontus Tidemand is one of many drivers in the WRC2 field electing to adopt a conservative strategy in order to see the finish.

“For sure you need to be clever and take it carefully in the places where you need to be [careful] and try to push in the places you can push, especially if it’s in the last stage before service,” Tidemand said during his pre-event test.

“The last 10 kilometers for sure you can try to push and hope that you survive until service.

“You need to have a lot of strategy for this rally, and also have a set-up for the car that is probably not the fastest but [one which allows you] to survive the rally so the tires will survive.”

Reigning Junior World Rally Champion Jan Solans is another to share the same approach, which became especially pertinent after the Spaniard became an early victim of the unforgiving Turkish roads after crashing his Ford Fiesta Rally2 during testing.

Jan Solans

“I went a little bit wide in a left corner and I touched the outside and the wheel came completely off, so we need to fix it,” the WRC3 driver told DirtFish.

“And now we are starting to get the feeling with the car, seeing how tough the rally is and now we know what to expect.

“The rally will be more about surviving than being fast, so we need to find a strong car to be able to pass through the stages and get to the finish line.”

DirtFish-backed Saintéloc Junior Team driver Sean Johnston is new to Rally Turkey and was surprised by the sheer size of some of the notorious rocks lining the side of the roads.

“This is a completely new kind of event for me,” Johnston said. “I’ve never seen roads so rough, twisty, bumpy, tons of bedrock, tons of loose rocks that get brought into the line. It’s an adventure out there for sure.

“Luckily we had our first experience of it in the test. Let’s say that I’ve done most rocks well but on the last pass, we passed over a rock that was the size of a watermelon, you could feed a family of five with it.

“So, it was crazy. Didn’t quite get that one right but that’s the nature of the beast here.

“It’s going to be a bit of a lottery and it’s just about being as smart as we can and then keeping our fingers cross that we don’t encounter so many huge rocks like that.”