Hyundai Motorsport heads to new territory as the tenth round of the 2018 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) takes place on the gravel roads of Turkey for the first time since 2010.
Despite playing host to WRC events in the past, this year’s Rally Turkey will be held in Muğla Province in the south-west of the country, offering a brand new challenge for all competitors. The Service Park is in Asparan, close to the coastal port city of Marmaris.
Turkey can be considered the home of the i20, as the road car – on which the team’s WRC challenger is based – is produced at Hyundai Assan Izmit plant, close to Istanbul. The facility, which has an annual maximum capacity of 245,000 units, currently manufactures the i10 and i20 models, and acts as Hyundai Motor Company’s gateway to Europe, together with its Czech factory.
Hyundai Motorsport will field a three-car line-up for its maiden trip to Turkey with Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jæger, championship leaders Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul and Hayden Paddon/Seb Marshall in the respective Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC cars.
Although no testing has been permitted in Turkey, all crews have recently tested on gravel in the south of France to prepare for the event. The real challenge will come once crews are able to complete recce in the build-up to the rally, creating pace notes from scratch.
With just four events left to run, Hyundai Motorsport holds a slender 13-point lead in the manufacturers’ championship
Neuville tops the drivers’ table with a 23-point advantage over Sébastien Ogier, with Ott Tanak chasing in third. It means the Belgian will have the honour – and probable handicap – of being first on the road for the all-new Rally Turkey.
Team Principal Michel Nandan commented: “It has been quite some time since we visited a new location for a WRC event, so we are all excited to discover what Turkey has to offer. We will only truly find out what challenges await us once we experience the routes for the first time. Regulations have prevented us from testing there in advance, but all crews have had the chance to prepare in the south of France. As a brand new rally, it will be a completely level playing field. Teams will be constantly honing and improving the settings of their cars, while crews will have a tough job to create and update new pace notes for all 17 stages. We have to take the rally one stage at a time; the battle for victory could go in any direction.”
Mikkelsen previously competed in Turkey back in 2008
He moved into the drivers’ championship top five after Rallye Deutschland.
“I took part in Rally Turkey back in 2008, which was held in a completely different part of the country to where we will be rallying next week. It’s going to be a totally new experience for all competitors and one that will undoubtedly spring some surprises. From what we have seen, it appears we will be competing on rough roads and in very hot conditions, which will be tough on the crews, cars, tyres and brakes. All in all, it will be a nice new challenge and one I am looking forward to”, Mikkelsen said.
— Andreas Mikkelsen (@AMikkelsenRally) September 12, 2018
Neuville is leading drivers’ championship by 23 points
He took part in Rally Turkey in 2010 on stages in the north of the country.
“Rally Turkey will be a step into the unknown for everyone. We don’t know much about the stages, but we have had the chance to see some video footage. It seems like the roads will be very rough. From our position as first on the road, I am expecting a tricky weekend. I like new rallies and new challenges; it keeps the championship fresh and offers teams and crews something entirely new to tackle. My main target is to enjoy the rally and, of course, to do all we can to preserve our position at the head of the championship”, Neuville explained.
What’s in your bucket list? What are the places you would like to discover? A new race is always in my bucket list because it’s a new experience and challenge. Time for @rallyturkey !#GetReady #WRC #HMSGOfficial pic.twitter.com/RaWeBZZoyk
— Thierry Neuville (@thierryneuville) September 10, 2018
Paddon also participated in Rally Turkey in 2010 on roads near to Istanbul
Now he returns for his fifth WRC event of the season.
Paddon said: “I can’t wait to get back into WRC action; it feels like a long time since Finland! Turkey promises to be an unpredictable rally for everyone. I competed there back in 2010 but in a different part of the country so that experience is not comparable to what we’ll encounter next week. It looks like the stages will be twisty, rough and very hot, resembling an old Cyprus rally. As with any new event there are lots of unknowns, but we’re as prepared as we can be. We’ll definitely give it a good crack.”
?? @rallyturkey – RECCE Day 1 ??
Good day of RECCE. Some really challenging but enjoyable stages lay ahead, with the biggest obstacle being the many large loose rocks. ??
— Hayden Paddon (@HaydenPaddon) September 11, 2018