Rally Turkey: Toyota driver Kriss Meeke tops warm-up

MUGLA, Turkey  

The best strategy for racers seeking the top place in Rally Turkey 2019 is “the steadier, the better”, said the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) ahead of Friday’s real road-action. 

“Turkey is an old-school rough rally that’s won as much with the head as with a heavy right foot,” the competition said. 

Contrary to the aggressive nature of rally racing, the technical, twisty and rocky roads of the Turkish stages make crews take a more conservative approach. This was how Ott Tanak became last year’s winner in his relatively low-pace Toyota Yaris — keeping a stable car and staying on the middle of the road.

Meanwhile, Thierry Neuville, Sebastien Ogier and Andreas Mikkelsen paid the price of excessive speed, crashing their vehicles and breaking some parts.

Oppressive temperatures will also be a trying factor for racers, who will need to keep their engines and tires from overheating as lower speeds will translate into less chances for natural cooling. 

It will be the competitors’ abilities to manage these difficulties that will determine whether Tanak will remain on top with his “steady” strategy, or be bested by one of his opponents for the championship battle.

Meanwhile, Toyota — championship leader Tanak’s team — announced Thursday they would make “big” changes on suspension set-up to gain more speed ahead of the competition.

“We accepted we weren’t fast, but we understood the others could run into trouble,” Toyota’s chief engineer Tom Fowler explained why they decided to forgo a set-up change in the middle of the rally last year.

“That won’t happen this time,” Fowler said, adding: “The other teams have learned about this rally and they’ll be ready for it. We can’t and won’t rely on bad luck or poor reliability from the others.” 

Tanak’s possible win in Marmaris is also important for team Toyota (281 points) to close the eight-point gap with leader Hyundai (289 points) in the manufacturers’ championship — or even take the lead.

Asked whether he reached the desired pace in Shakedown, warm-up stage, after the set-up changes during a pre-event press conference, Tanak said: “Hopefully we can stay in the fight, and of course, the team has been working really hard on that.” 

Tanak also said that he is talking to “more than one” teams as he didn’t renew his contract with Toyota Yaris for 2020 season yet.

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