The 2nd Rally of Turkey takes place this coming weekend - the seventh round out of sixteen in the 2004 FIA World Rally Championship.

Turkey will also play host to the third round in the 2004 FIA Junior WRC.

The holiday resort of Kemer, 40km south of the larger city of Antalya, is again the base of the rally and where the single service park will be located.

However, Thursday night's start and crowd-pleasing super special stage are in Antalya. This year's stage is at a new venue at the university and the 2.50km test, where two cars race side by side, is repeated again at the end of Friday's opening leg.

The remainder of the 383.33km of competition is based on rough gravel roads high in the Anatolian mountains, west of Kemer. The stages use essentially the same roads as last year, although most include some variation. However, there are three new tests and eight of the 17 stages will be repeated. The second leg is the longest of the event, totalling 153.60km of action.

Special notes:

Presenting crews with a series of twisty, rock-strewn tests run high in the Anatolian Mountains, the event's terrain should have a familiar feel. The challenging stages will be similar to those used in the preceding Mediterranean events of Greece and Cyprus, while the event's twisty nature is expected to make it one of the slowest rallies of the year. In 2003 cars recorded average speeds of just 77kph, compared to 67kph in Cyprus, and 82kph in Greece.

Making its second consecutive appearance in the WRC calendar, the 2004 Rally of Turkey will once again be based around the town of Kemer, 40km south of the holiday resort of Antalya.

While the route remains similar, a calendar shift from February to June will mean this year's event is likely to be hot and dry, with temperatures in excess of 30?C. This will be in marked contrast to 2003 when the event was held in late winter and unusually heavy rainstorms damaged some of the stages.

FIA World Rally Championship news:

Sebastien Loeb leads the World Rally drivers' championship, 5 points ahead of Petter Solberg. Citroen meanwhile head the constructors' - 5 points ahead of Ford, while Subaru are a further ten adrift in third.


News from the Manufacturers' teams:
555 Subaru World Rally Team:

[Petter Solberg, car #1 and Mikko Hirvonen, car #2.]

The Subaru World Rally Team will operate its usual two cars this weekend, which will be driven by Petter Solberg (co-driven by Phil Mills) and Mikko Hirvonen (co-driven by Jarmo Lehtinen). With only limited knowledge of the Turkish rally, both Solberg and Hirvonen will be drawing on their experience of other rough gravel events, such as Cyprus and Greece.

Citroen Total:

[Sebastien Loeb, car #3 and Carlos Sainz, car #4]

Citroen and Sebastien Loeb currently lead both championships following the Acropolis Rally - and although the Frenchman will again be hampered by running first on the road in Turkey, he remains confident he can do well.

"The Xsara is strong, reliable, nicely balanced, and I feel totally confident at its wheel," noted Loeb. "That's vital when you're going after those last, all-important tenths of a second. Our recent test session with Michelin was also fruitful, so I feel I have some good cards in hand and I am looking forward to seeing where we stand in comparison with the others in Turkey.

"My main objective hasn't changed and that is to stay in contention in the championship. That implies finishing on the podium. I will be happy with third place but, hopefully, I will be able to do even better."

Marlboro Peugeot Total:

[Marcus Gronholm, car #5 and Harri Rovanpera, car #6].

"Given how we performed in Cyprus and Greece, I think we can hope for a top result in Turkey which would show the speed and reliability of our car," says Peugeot Sport director Corrado Provera. "There is a huge will within the team to recover the ground we have lost in the championship for a variety of reasons. It's up to us now to score a maximum amount of points over the next few events."

Ford Motor Company:

[Markko Martin, car #7 and Francois Duval, car #8.]

Markko Martin completed the opening two days of a three-day test in northern England last week. The development test allowed the team to trial several new components on the Focus RS WRC as well as undertaking tyre work with Michelin. The opening day was based in Kershope Forest before the team moved south to Grizedale Forest, both former stages on the Rally GB.

Briton Mark Higgins and Swede Tobias Johansson took over the driving duties for the final day.

Cosworth Racing meanwhile has been working on a development upgrade for the Focus RS Duratec R engine and during the test Martin reported an improvement in performance. However, Cosworth engineers remain cautious about the engine's durability for a rough event, such as Turkey. A decision on whether to use the new engine will made prior to the event.

Mitsubishi Motor Sports:

[Gilles Panizzi, car #9 and 'Gigi' Galli, car #10.]

Mitsubishi head into the unknown this weekend having missed Turkey's debut in the WRC last year, as they took a 'year out'. The team has modest aims.

"This will be another very hot and rocky event where we start as we did in Greece; humble and concentrating on our own rally," commented technical director Mario Fornaris. "We are gaining experience all the time and Turkey will be another chapter in our book. How different this event will be, we will have to wait and see."


Junior WRC:

The Junior WRC continues this weekend, following round two in Greece, when only 5 runners finished. Guy Wilks won the Acropolis Rally for Suzuki, while Monte Carlo winner, Nicolas Bernardi was second, to firmly establish himself as the leader in the Junior standings. He has 18 points, while Wilks has 10, Larry Cols 9, Urmo Aava eight and Kris Meeke and Xavier Pons 6.


Schedule:

Beginning with a ceremonial start on Thursday 24 June in Antalya, followed by a 2.5km sprint around the Efes Pilsen Super Special Stage, the rally starts in earnest on Friday 25 June at 0715hrs.

The three-day event will be contested over 17 rough gravel stages, covering a total of 383.33 competitive kilometres.

The longest test, the Kumluca stage at 36.10km, will be used for SS9 and SS11, while the shortest, the twisty Efes Pilsen Super Special at 2.5km, will be used for SS1 and SS7.

The winning car is expected to cross the finish ramp in Kemer at 1431hrs on Sunday 27 June.

Hot tip:

Solberg and Subaru to notch up third win of 2004?


Last year:

Last year's event, which took place at the end of February was won by Carlos Sainz, with Richard Burns second and Francois Duval third. There were six significant retirements, including Petter Solberg, Sebastien Loeb, Mikko Hirvonen and Harri Rovanpera.