By Paul Evans
Elfyn Evans has never contested Rally Turkey before, and the Dolgellau driver is hoping that starting eighth on the rough, rocky and unfamiliar roads will play to his advantage.
It’s the first time that the FIA World Rally Championship has been to Turkey since 2010, but now it’s a completely different event, as it has moved from its previous base in Kemer, close to Antalya, to the Mediterranean port city and holiday resort of Marmaris. Crews have written new pacenotes from scratch during the low-speed recce, and with no pre-event testing allowed in Turkey, Evans will have the extra security of seven cars running ahead of him to find any unexpected hazards when they attack the gravel stages at full speed for the first time.
Co-driven by Daniel Barritt, Evans won’t be holding back however, as a good result in his M-Sport Ford Fiesta WRC is important as he tries to end a frustrating season with a flourish. With just four rounds remaining, the 29-year old Welshman has matched his team-mate, five-time world champion Sébastien Ogier, on speed, but bad luck, punctures and mistakes have cost him good results, with just second place in Portugal back in May an indication of what might have been.
Rally Turkey will be a step into the unknown in many ways, but it’s guaranteed to be tough on tyres and extremely hot, with late summer temperatures expected to hit 30°C.
“We’ll be taking a step into the unknown with a brand-new rally and I’m sure it will be an interesting weekend,” said Evans. “I’m looking forward to discovering what the Turkish stages have to offer.
“For sure it will be hot, and we’ll need to be prepared for that. It also looks as though it could be quite loose which would give us a good road position for the first day; but it also has the potential to be fairly rough and everyone will need to have their wits about them.
“We completed our pre-event test on some pretty rough roads in Greece and the Fiesta proved as strong as ever. We’re as prepared as we can be and I think we’re all looking forward to experiencing something completely new – where the aim is to be in the fight for the top positions.”
Rally Turkey begins with a short stage through the streets of downtown Marmaris tonight, before the gravel action gets underway on Friday. Heading northeast towards Muğla, the day takes in two identical loops of three stages including the longest of the event. Saturday, to the west, takes on a similar format and packs in 80 miles of competition. Sunday is short with four stages, culminating with the Marmaris Power Stage that ends in the Asparan Service Park. There are 17 special stages in all, totalling 195 stage miles.