Ford World Rally Team claimed a double points haul as three Focus RS World Rally Cars finished in the top nine on the Rally of Turkey today. Toni Gardemeister and Jakke Honkanen were sixth, finishing this seventh round of the FIA World Rally Championship 41.0 seconds and one place
ahead of team-mates Roman Kresta and Jan Moěnż. A third privately-entered Focus RS, driven by Antony Warmbold and Michael Orr, was ninth.
The result means that Gardemeister and Honkanen maintained their record of scoring points on all seven rounds of the championship to date. They lie fifth in the drivers' standings while Kresta and Moěnż are eighth with nine rounds remaining. Ford remains third in the manufacturers' table.
The three-day Rally of Turkey was the third consecutive hot weather, rough road event. Based at Kemer in the south of the country, drivers faced 348.43km of competition in a route of 1183.54km. Inconsistent weather in the Anatolian Mountains made conditions tricky. Sweltering heat contrasted with torrential rain, and even hail, and the clay-based tracks cut up quickly in places to expose large rocks on the ideal driving line. Competitors also had to contend with mud and fog and accurate tyre selection was difficult throughout.
With no chance of climbing the leaderboard unless drivers in front hit trouble and with no pressure from behind, Gardemeister took no risks in his Castrol- branded Focus RS on today's short final leg, comprising just two speed tests and 49.80km. "It's been a hard weekend," said the 30- year-old Finn. "I've scored points which is good but I really wanted to finish ahead of Markko Mšrtin and I didn't. I've not been so happy with my performance. I like the roads here but I've not had a good feeling. I lost time yesterday with a puncture and that was my fault because I hit some stones.
"I was happier with the set-up of the car today. I made the suspension stiffer and that felt good but then the grip wasn't as strong, so maybe if we change the set-up we need to look at different tyre options as well. The surface is different on the next round in Greece and I'm aiming for a good result there," he added.
Team-mate Kresta maintained the risk-free strategy that has served him so well in recent rallies. The 29-year-old Czech driver, handicapped by an illness to co-driver Moěnż who suffered with a sore throat and swollen glands all rally, cruised through the final day but admitted to stepping up the pace on the opening stage when he was fifth fastest.
"I pushed hard on the opening stage, which had good grip. The last stage had a lot of loose gravel on the surface so I made sure I was careful. It's been a good weekend and I've now scored points on each of the last three rallies which shows good consistency. It has been hard to choose the right tyres with the constant weather changes, and it's especially difficult when the weather is so different on the recce than it is on the rally," he said.
Warmbold was happy with a top 10 finish after a difficult weekend. "We've had our ups and downs," said the German. "I lack experience in muddy conditions because I don't trust the grip. It's like driving on snow without studs. I struggled for confidence on the first day but yesterday and today have been much better."
Private entrants Henning Solberg and Cato Menkerud finished 11th in their similar Focus RS. The Norwegians restarted today under the SupeRally regulations after retiring with a throttle problem yesterday. They lost third gear after 10km of the final 33.35km test, but it made no difference to their final placing. "The weekend has not been as good as it was in Cyprus last month. Maybe we've been a little unlucky but it hasn't really come together on this event," said Solberg.
The final episode of this eastern Mediterranean trilogy comes in Greece later this month. The Acropolis Rally is based in Lamia on 23 - 26 June.
Press release Ford World Rally Team