Unchartered territory marks this weekend’s fourth round of the 2010 World Rally Championship as teams and drivers tackle an all-new Rally of Turkey, which was last run in a different region in 2008.

Running from 15 to 18 April, the Turkish event follows just two weeks after the controversial tactics used on Jordan’s hard-rock roads where team orders assisted Citroen’s Sébastien Loeb to his second win of the season.

Loeb now has a 25 point lead in the standings – the exact points awarded for a rally win – and the six-time WRC champ and co-driver Daniel Elena are the favourites to score their third consecutive win on what are expected to be fast-flowing roads. However, Loeb has not won in Turkey since 2004 and was beaten by BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team’s Mikko Hirvonen and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen in 2008.

“Twenty five points equals a victory. It’s always good to have an ace up your sleeve but the way the 2009 season panned out, reminded us that you can’t lose any points along the way,” said 35-year-old Loeb.

Hirvonen slipped to third in the drivers’ standings after Jordan, behind BP Ford team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala in second place. The Finn knows he must score well at Turkey if he’s to eat in to Loeb’s advantage.

The event features 23 stages, covering 358.84 kilometres over the three days. Forty-three teams are vying for their share of the limelight over roads described as reasonably fast and wide. Recent heavy rain has left many roads wet and muddy, so while dust may not be of concern, the tactical games over starting order could continue.

Rally of Turkey moves to a new base of Pendik on the eastern fringe of Istanbul this year. The world’s fifth largest city bridges the Bosphorus River, the gateway between Europe and Asia. Utilising new aspects in the WRC guidelines, this is the first rally on this year’s calendar to use mixed-surface roads. Rally New Zealand also utilises this regulatory change, and teams must use the same Pirelli Scorpion hard compound tyre for both tarmac and gravel stages at both events.

The ceremonial starting takes place on Thursday evening next to Istanbul's famous Blue Mosque, then crews cross back over the Bosphorus River where the rest of the event is based. Friday's nine special stages comprise the shortest day of the rally, clustered around the Black Sea holiday resort of Sile, north-east of Pendik. Eight stages are on gravel, with an end-of-day asphalt super special stage on the shores of the Bosphorus in Istanbul. Crews again journey north to the Black Sea on the second day where six of the eight stages contain asphalt. The final day's action include inland five stages close to Pendik, before crews return to the city for the ceremonial finish.

The Rally of Turkey does not feature on the Production or Super 2000 World Rally Championship calendars, but it is the first event for the five Pirelli Star Drivers from around the world, including the Asia Pacific delegates, Kiwis Hayden Paddon and co-driver John Kennard.

Paddon, 21, says his first Pirelli event will be a great introduction before he starts his PWRC programme at Rally New Zealand in early May.

“I’m really excited about Turkey. It’s not somewhere that I know a lot about, but I’ve been doing some research and I hear the roads are quite smooth and fast, which is good. Turkey is going to be a big learning curve for us all, but the good thing for me is that it’s not a round of the Production World Rally Championship, which we’re contesting this year, so that means we can settle into the car a little bit on this first event  without worrying about taking points.”
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