Turkey: tough terrain forces tactical shifts


The mindset has to be changed. Everything needs a re-set. Take your Rally Estonia head to Turkey and you’re sure to lose. Cuts need to be cautioned and expectations weighted by the reality of the season’s rockiest roads.

Yes, next week’s Rally Turkey (18 – 20 September) is another gravel round of the FIA World Rally Championship, but it couldn’t be more different to where we’ve just come from.

Everything changes between rounds four and five. On the first loop of the roads around Tartu, the World Rally Car machinery would have been closer to an asphalt rally ride height than they will be as they leave the service park in the forest high above the Turkish coast.

If Estonia was about raw speed and top gear turn-in precision, Turkey’s about a constant knife-edge balance and split-second calculation on what you can get away with. Will the tyre survive that rock? Will the suspension be able to deal with that rough section?

But talk to the drivers and suggest the approach might not be flat-out in Turkey and they’ll laugh in your face. You have, they’ll subsequently tell you, to go flat out and push as hard as you can.

If you don’t and somebody else does, you risk being left behind. And if the cars ahead stay out of trouble, your measured and sensible approach can come back to haunt you from the bottom end of the top 10.

The one thing in your favour if you’re chasing time is that it’s easier (should we say, less difficult…) to pull it back.

Fundamentally, there are more slow-speed corners coming our way on the Asian side of the Bosphorus and that nature of turn means you can take the risk to brake later and push harder out of corners. But again, that risk has to be measured constantly against how much you’re using the tyres and how much you think you can gain.

Tyre management is a big part of Turkey, far more so than last time out where tyre choice was straightforward and the softer Estonian roads were more sympathetic to the tread.

Forget that in Marmaris. With ambient temperatures knocking on the door of the middle-30s and road temperatures even higher, tyres will need plenty of tender loving care to get through.

And it’s not nearly as comfortable for the crews. High speed means high levels of airflow through the cockpit and, at times, that air was coming into the cars at 13°C in Estonia. Slower speeds means less air and what they do get will be twice as hot.

Turkey, like all hot, rough gravel rallies, will be uncomfortable. The winner will be the person who makes the best transition from high speed to high ride height.

The winner will be the one who puts on his Rally Turkey head quickest.


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