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Eleventh round of the 2019 FIA World Rally Championship is the gravel Rally Turkey (12-15 September), being held this year in its current format for the second time and the eighth time it has been a WRC qualifying event. For the second year, the event is based at the port city and tourist resort town of Marmaris in Mugla Province in the south west part of Anatolia. Extremely warm and dry conditions are expected. The rally starts with a downtown asphalt stage on the Thursday evening, then three days of gravel stages to the north and west of Marmaris. Friday’s schedule covers 160km of stages, more than all the rest of the rally together. The central service area is about 12 kilometres outside Marmaris, the route is largely the same as last year, but with a completely new stage done twice on the Saturday and one substantially new stage on the final morning. The special delights of the event are various stages with scenic views over the Mediterranean. The rally is not considered a “long-haul” event and all teams transport their equipment and cars to Marmaris by road transport, with rally cars being away from their bases for three weeks – longer sometimes than even during long-haul events. Debatable is which running order for the Friday is the best, as road cleaning is balanced by the increasingly dislodged rocks in the road. Hard tyres are the prime choice. 31 cars had been entered but the event does not this year qualify for the Junior WRC, so without these one-make championship cars the entry level is comparable to that last year. 27 entries are FIA championship contenders, only four are non-championship contenders. There are 11 World Rally Cars, including a third M-Sport entry for Pontus Tidemand (partnered by Ola Floene) and only Citroen will have a two-car entry. Among the 18 car R5 cars (well over half the total entry) are three Mark II Fiestas for Greensmith, “Pedro” and Gaurav Gill, and two Skoda Fabia Evos for Rovanpera and Kopecky. For Gill this is the start of a new international competition project for the Indian company JK Tyres. The two Skoda Evos and only Greensmith have been entered in WRC2 Pro. Six entries on the event come from Turkey, and after Gryazin’s withdrawal only three competitors are not registered for an FIA championship. Only two entries are for two-wheel drive cars. In addition, 23 cars have been entered in the National Rally category, all in familiar types of car, but there are also five examples of Fiat Egea, local versions of the Fiat Tipo, which are due only to run on the Friday. Disappointing late news: Elfyn Evans is to miss his third successive WRC event because of his back injury in the non-championship Rally Estonia in July, which means that M-Sport WRC entry is down to two cars. Also, the FIA’s WRC2 Amateur championship leader, Nikolay Gryazin, was planning to compete in a non-championship category this year but cancelled his entry. The pre-Evo Skoda Fabia R5 which he had planned to drive was too badly damaged on the ECR Barum Czech Rally Zlin and the time will now be taken preparing his new Evo version car. He will go instead for a test rally one week after Turkey at Nova Gorica in Slovenia. These withdrawals mean that the total entries for the WRC event are now down to 29.
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