13 Jun 08
As co-driver to Henning Solberg, Cato Menkerud has happy memories of Rally Turkey; the Norwegian scored his first ever podium here when the rally was last run in 2006.
This year the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford team duo are looking for another good result, and after narrowly missing out on a podium on the last round, in Greece, they’ve every chance of fighting for another one this weekend.
Cato spoke to wrc.com after the pre-event recce to describe each of this year’s stages.
Thursday and Friday’s stages
With the exception of the Superspecial - which is run at Antalya University - most of the rally is based in a compact region in the mountains west of Kemer. This means that the character of most of the stages is very similar. Day one of the rally actually starts on Thursday night with the Superspecial, and the proper rally stuff doesn’t start until Friday morning. Friday’s stages are good. It’s the longest day of the rally but there’s a lot of variety; sometimes they’re fast, then they switch to slow and twisty. This year the organisers have graded all the roads using a sort of plough. This has made them all a bit wider and smoother; I think I have changed 80 percent of my pace notes to faster corners. The big rocks are still here though; they’ve just moved either to the side of the road, or just under the surface. There’s a lot of loose gravel on top, so I expect a lot of road cleaning for the first pass, and lots of rocks on the second!
SS1/SS16 Antalya SSS, 2.6km
The Superspecial feels almost like tarmac but it’s actually hard gravel. I like it because it’s good for the spectators. It’s not a great drivers’ stage, but very few Superspecials are. We almost went off here in 2006; we started in the right-hand lane and nearly lost it on a crest - we know about that corner this time...
SS2/SS5 Perge, 22.43km
Friday’s first stage starts fast, climbing up to the top of a hillside and then it gets very, very twisty. In 2006 it was muddy like hell, so it’s quite different this year. The scenery is generally open, there aren’t many trees, and it’s fast. You have to be brave to keep a good speed. In the second half of the stage it goes downhill through a woodland section and it’s really twisty. I think I have 40 pages of notes for this stage, and for just 22km that’s a lot!
SS3/SS6 Myra, 24.15km
Again, a very twisty and technical stage, and in some places I imagine we’ll see some big rocks pulled onto the road here. Between 6 and 13km there are some places that are especially slippery with very deep gravel. There are two tricky downhill hairpins at the 18km mark, then the road opens up and becomes much faster towards the finish.
SS4/SS7 Kumluca 9.9km
I like this stage a lot. It’s fast, and runs close to a river. The scenery is beautiful. This year the stage features a brand new spectator area which looks out onto a few wide but tricky corners. It should be a good place to watch from. Like the rest of the day there are lots of hairpins, but it’s not the hardest stage of the rally
SS8/SS10 Chimera, 16.94km
This is a good stage. It starts on some tarmac for about1km then goes uphill with a sequence of hairpins. We went off there in 2006 - it wasn’t a massive problem but it can happen! The middle section runs through a valley and passes some small farms - it’s another stunning looking place. There’s a jump at the 11km mark which is good for the spectators. The stage ends with a downhill section through a forest.
SS9/SS15 Phaselis, 22.40km
The last stage of the day is Phaselis, a fast test compared to all the rest. It’s mainly wide and open but tightens up towards the end. It’s a new stage for this year. Well, almost new. In fact three kilometers were used two years ago, and that leads into another, longer section which was also run in 2006, but this time it’s run in the reverse direction. At one point this stage crosses SS2. It’s twisty all the way and some corners can be very deceptive. It’s quite a tough way to end Friday.