The WRC teams tell Martin Holmes what went right (and wrong) in Turkey, and how they are preparing for this weekend's Wales Rally GB.
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Hyundai consider they definitely did not get the result they would have hoped for in Turkey, but did increase their lead in the Manufacturers’ championship.
Regarding the high number of punctures in Turkey, Hyundai view this as being part of the sport. Their cars coped well with the roughness and their opinion is it is good to have a mix of different surfaces and conditions in the championship.
The challenge of Wales Rally GB will depend on how muddy and slippery the conditions are; where a lot of traction from the car is needed to give you the confidence to push. In some places you can be driving on pure mud.
It’s one of the rallies that is less complicated on the weather side because everyone knows or presumes it is going to rain, and it is really unusual for the rally to be dry. Even if the grip is low, it’s quite consistent, sometimes the second pass is a bit tricky.
The stages themselves, the profile is really amazing, quite flowing in the forests.
Each driver had a day testing in Wales in mid-September and the team worked on grip levels. No technical changes for WRGB.
Neuville has his Germany car, Breen has Sordo's Sardinia winning car and Mikkelsen his Sardinia car.
The team have not yet won in Wales, although of their drivers Neuville has scored three podium results and Mikkelsen one.
Recent Hyundai news: Mikkelsen to compete in a WRC car run by HMI in RallyLegend the weekend following WRGB.
Driver quotes:Thierry Neuville: “Wales Rally GB can be one of the wettest rallies on the calendar, so we have to be prepared for an eventful weekend. It’s typically a very slippery event but one I enjoy. I’ve been on the podium a couple of times and I’m hoping to replicate that this year.
"The stages are quite flowing, very fast and we have some dark-light conditions too, which adds to the atmosphere. The itinerary is demanding with long days but it’s what Wales is known for and I’m ready for the challenge.”
Andreas Mikkelsen: “Wales Rally GB is where I started my WRC career, so always holds a special place on the calendar for me. At this time of the year, as we tend to have more inclement late autumn weather, the conditions are usually very slippery - lots of rain and fog.
"It’s one of the trickiest gravel rallies we do all season as the stages are fast paced but also very muddy. Hopefully, we can continue our momentum from our podium finish in Turkey.”
Craig Breen: “It’s great to be back in the car again for Wales Rally GB. It’s a rally that I really love. It’s obviously the closest I’ll get to a home event for the moment. I have great memories from over the years.
"Finland exceeded my expectations and definitely gave me a lot more confidence going forward. I know it’s going to be difficult and we need to do everything we can to provide good manufacturers’ championship points for the team.”
In preparation for Elfyn Evans’ return to WRC competition (following injury on the Estonia Rally in July) he drove a Fiesta R5 at a PR Day in mid-September, as well as being granted permission for a test day in Wales.
The team carried out other testing in Greystoke forest, Suninen and Tidemand a day each.
Turkey was a strong result for the team with Suninen (4th) combining speed, consistency and tyre management, particularly on the Saturday afternoon. Tidemand had a good weekend, his first time in a Fiesta WRC on gravel.
Regarding the high number of punctures sustained in Turkey - remember that some drivers did not suffer any punctures! People also seem to have missed that there were a number of very smooth stages on this year’s event – and the full facts should always be considered before jumping to conclusions.
The cost involved (in re-introducing anti-deflation mousses), extra testing required and investment from the tyre companies for one event would outweigh the positives.
Greensmith showcased both the strength of the new car with stage-winning pace to secure the MkII’s first WRC 2 Pro victory.
The event is not too rough for good sport, and it was still an interesting fight and rally to watch.
The team believe the R5 transmission problems for “Pedro” and Gill in Turkey could be helped by improvements in the driving technique to help avoid these issues, but the situations are being closely monitored to check nothing is untoward.
Unpredictable weather producing inconsistent and constantly changing grip levels is always a challenge in Wales, as well as patches of mud, fog and the night stages, where those with the most trust in their pacenotes can really excel.
On the Saturday the crews will have to contend with all of this without the luxury of a midday service break.
The days are also incredibly long and just keeping concentration for the full day is a big challenge. It will be mentally hard for the crews.
The team has won the last two editions of WRGB. There is a new car for Evans and their cars from Turkey for Suninen and Tidemand, and R5s in WRC2 Pro for Greensmith, while Paddon uses Pedro’s car.
Elfyn Evans: “I’m really looking forward to getting back behind the wheel – especially as it’s on home soil in Wales. This event is the highlight of my year, every year, and when you get it right in front of all those Welsh flags it’s an incredible feeling.
“We have some of the best stages in the world in Wales, and it’s a proper challenge for the crews – especially if the Welsh weather has anything to say about it which I think it probably will next week. In those tricky conditions the grip levels are constantly changing and you have to be able to read the road if you want to push for the top results.
“We might have been away for a few months, but my motivation is as high as it ever was. We’ve had a good test, and I feel like we’re well prepared for the challenges ahead. And the goal, as always, is to push for the top results.”
Teemu Suninen: “I really like this rally and have done well there in the past. I didn’t have a lot of experience of the stages last year, but I was really pleased with my performance – setting some good times and running in podium position before having to retire. So the goal this year will be to continue that performance, and see if we can challenge for the top positions.
“We completed a full day of testing in Greystoke and, even though the base there is a bit harder than what we’ll see in Wales, I think we manged to find a good set-up and will be able to deliver a good performance on these challenging stages.
“Maybe the biggest challenge though is the lack of sleep. Probably we will only get about four or five hours a night – and the road sections to the first stage can be pretty long. It will be physically and mentally challenging to stay alert in those first stages, but that is all part of the challenge in Wales.”
Turkey was not the best rally for the Toyota team this year. Generally road conditions were as expected from last year.
For sure the event is one of the roughest events this year, but not too rough.
Regarding the high number of punctures, TGR think re-introduction of anti-deflation mousses should be considered for some rallies. But first of course we need to study how much is the additional cost of it.
The challenge of Wales Rally GB is the extreme weather conditions. Muddy and slippery roads makes it hard both for the drivers and the team.
All the mud that sticks to the car makes it heavier, it affects the car balance and the speed. There’s always a chance of fog, which can make everything even more difficult.
Testing was carried out in GB with at least one day for each crew. The team take two cars used in Finland (Latvala his; Tanak had Meeke’s), while Meeke had his car from Germany.
Toyota last won RGB in 1993 when it was based in Birmingham, while the team’s drivers have won the rally when based in Wales twice (Latvala 2011 and 2012), and scored four podiums (Latvala 3; Tanak 1).
Ott Tänak: “Rally GB is always something special. It’s a rally I like, as the roads are fast and they have a nice flow, but the conditions make it difficult, especially because the grip levels are constantly changing at every corner.
"You need confidence in your car on every rally, but it’s in these kind of conditions where it can really help to make a big difference. The gap in the championship is closer now, but we have three rallies to go and we know that we were fast on each of them last year. Now we just have to finish the job, starting in Wales.”
Jari-Matti Latvala: “Rally GB is special for me and I’ve always enjoyed it. The main challenge, of course, is always the weather: Over the years I’ve been competing there I’ve seen snow, ice, horrendous wind, and rain from nearly every angle!
"If it’s raining while you’re in the stage, it can actually wash away the mud and give you better grip, but when it’s drying out it can be very greasy and slippery.
"I’m looking forward to it and to picking up where I left off in Finland and Germany when I had a good rhythm with the driving. Hopefully we can achieve another good result to help the team in the championship.”
Kris Meeke: “This is as close as it gets to a home rally for me: My first ever rally was in some of the same Welsh forests that I’m now fortunate enough to drive a World Rally Car through. For me, the mud and rain you get there is a big part of why I love rallying.
"In early October the weather can certainly still be wet, but it’s usually less extreme than when the rally used to be held in November. We know that the Yaris WRC can work quite well in these sort of conditions, even if it gets really slippery.
"So I’m optimistic that we will go there with a quick car and can be confident of a top result.”
The team’s thoughts on the roughness of Turkey, following their 1-2 victory, was that it was as expected, that it's part of the game to have a wide variety of challenges in a world championship and overcome that.
Their crews only sustained one puncture (Ogier), and again it's part of the game to try to avoid punctures, even if sometimes, on some very specific stages (eg: Baumholder stages in Germany), it can be a lottery, which is not nice.
The last time Citroen won in Wales was 2010 with their C4 WRC when the event was based in Cardiff. The team’s drivers have five wins (Ogier 2013-2016 and 2018) and two podiums (one each Ogier and Lappi).
The only team for Wales Rally GB with just two entries, and they will have their Germany cars.
The special challenges of WRGB are its really slippery surface, lots of grip changes, challenging conditions (fog, night).
Three day test, 1 day with Camilli (more about development), 1 with Lappi and 1 with Ogier for the specific set-up. The team keep working as hard as possible to define the best set-up (suspensions, differentials) and will again have a specific valving in their dampers.
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