Rally Turkey Marmaris started like last year with a spectacular show stage in the streets of Marmaris on Thursday evening. Thousands of spectators witnessed Kalle Rovanperä and co-driver Jonne Halttunen setting the fastest time in the field of the R5 cars with their ŠKODA FABIA R5 evo, followed by the two private ŠKODA crews Kajetan Kajetanowicz/Maciej Szczepaniak (POL/POL) and Fabio Andolfi/Emanuele Inglesi (ITA/ITA). Jan Kopecký and co-driver Pavel Dresler powered their factory entered ŠKODA FABIA R5 evo to fourth quickest time. The Czech Rally Champion expressed what everybody had in mind: “The real rally starts on Friday on the gravel stages. I think it will be a big challenge to even get to the finish.” At the toughest gravel rally of the season, ŠKODA is with twelve entries by far the strongest brand in the field of the 17 R5 cars.
On Friday, the longest leg of the rally with six stages totalling 159.14 kilometres was waiting for the crews. The 24.85 kilometres of “Icmeler” opened the day, followed by the longest stage of the rally, the 38.15 kilometres of “Cetibeli”. And on the first gravel stage all went wrong for Kalle Rovanperä. He explained: “We had a puncture and we were going to change it on the next straight, but then I lost concentration and rolled the car.” Together with co-driver Jonne Halttunen, he managed to get the ŠKODA FABIA R5 evo back on its wheels again, changed the flat tyre and finished the stage with a time loss of around four minutes. Meanwhile, teammate Jan Kopecký set the fastest time of the category.
Friday 13th was definitely not the day of Kalle Rovanperä. On the longest stage of the Rally, he first had to change another flat tyre and then got another puncture. With no spare wheel left he was facing a difficult challenge. As due to the regulations a car is only allowed to be driven on public roads with four rotating wheels with rubber on it, he started the 16.57 kilometres fourth stage, which was the last one before the midday service, with three good and one flat tire, saving a tire with a slow puncture for the road section. Jan Kopecký had to drive more than half of the “Cetibeli” stage in the dust of Ford driver Gus Greensmith (GBR), who had to change a tire and re-started just in front of Kopecký. Unfortunately, Kalle Rovanperä could not make it back to the service park. The young Finn had to stop the car for the day on the road section. He will re-start on Saturday morning chasing valuable points for the WRC 2 Pro championship.
On the repetition of the morning loop, the stages turned from bad to worse, causing a real tire lottery. Jan Kopecký suffered another puncture and commented: “It can happen anywhere. I think that these stages should only be driven once.” On the second run of the “Cetibeli” stage, it even started to rain making the surface slippery. With no spare wheel left, Kopecký drove safely and secured his category lead up to the evening service at Asparan in the hills above the city of Marmaris. The leaders of the WRC 2 category for private teams, Kajetan Kajetanowicz and Maciej Szczepaniak, are first among the R5 competitors securing a double class lead for ŠKODA.
Saturday (14 September) brings six more stages covering 110.10 kilometres. After 17 tests totalling 310.10 kilometres, the winner will reach the podium in Marmaris on Sunday (15 September) at around 14h15.
Standings Rally Turkey after Day 2 (WRC 2 Pro/WRC 2)
1. Kajetanowicz/Szczepaniak (POL/POL), ŠKODA FABIA R5, 2:08:16.1 h
2. Kopecký/Dresler (CZE/CZE), ŠKODA FABIA R5 evo, +21.0 sec.*
3. Greensmith/Edmondson (GBR/GBR), Ford Fiesta R5 MKII, +1:43.8 min.*
4. Bulacia-Wilkinson/Cretu (BOL/ARG), ŠKODA FABIA R5, +3:04.0 sec.
5. Andolfi/Inglesi (ITA/ITA), ŠKODA FABIA R5, +4:23.5 min.
*Factory nominated crews eligible to score points in the WRC 2 Pro category
Number of the day: 6
In the field of the R5 competitors, ŠKODA crews set in total six fastest times on the seven stages of the first two days of Rally Turkey.
The calendar of the 2019 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC 2 Pro)
Great Britain 03/10/–06/10/2019