Round three of the 2003 FIA World Rally Championship, the Rally of Turkey, starts on Thursday and will prove uncharted territory for all the teams and drivers.

Round three of the 2003 FIA World Rally Championship, the Rally of Turkey, starts on Thursday and will prove uncharted territory for all the teams and drivers.

Based in the holiday region of Antalya, 720 km south east of Istanbul, it's the first time the Turkish event has been included in the WRC calendar, and with FIA 'long-haul' regulations having prevented teams from testing there, it remains an unknown for almost all the competitors.

Not only a new event for the competing WRC crews, Rally of Turkey is also a relatively new event in its own right. Running high in the Anatolian Mountains, the twisty, rocky stages, which are not dissimilar to those of the event's Mediterranean counterparts Cyprus and Greece, are being used for only the third time in the rally's history.

Correctly judging the weather will be a critical factor for success, and with some stages running at altitudes of 1 400 m, there is a high possibility of heavy rain, or even snow, causing wet and slippery conditions. As a result, average speeds are expected to be halfway between those of Cyprus and Greece, making it potentially the second slowest rally in the championship.

Beginning with a ceremonial start on February 27 in the historic town of Antalya, followed by a 1,55 km sprint around the Efes Pilsen super special (SS) stage, the rally starts in earnest on Friday. All the action is then based around the holiday resort of Kemer, 42 km south of the start.

The three-day event will be contested over 18 gravel stages, covering a total of 380 km. The longest test, the Perge stage at 32.85 km, will be used for SS5 and SS17, while the shortest, the twisty Efes Pilsen al at 1.55 km, will be used for SS1.

Here is what can be expected from the teams at the Turkish Rally:

Citroën:

Expect one of the most intriguing inter-team battles of the season so far at Citroen for the Rally of Turkey. Monte Carlo was always going to be Sebsastien Loeb's chance to shine, in Sweden you would have expected Colin McRae to have the upper hand on such a specialised rally. Next up is Turkey - an event where if anything Seb has a slight advantage because he completed the recce and five stages of the rally last year.

The pair shares the lead of championship, but both are likely to be hindered by their road position on Friday.

Peugeot:

Swedish Rally winner and defending WRC champion Marcus Gronholm may get the better of Richard Burns at this event. Logic says Burns will struggle - he's got a new engineer for this rally, and Marcus has been faster than him on both events this season.

Ford:

Markko Martin was quick on the rough gravel events last year and the Focus was always strong enough to get to the finish. He's not got the best road position on Friday, but Ford had probably penciled in this rally at the start of the year where they could expect to be fighting for a podium if not a win.

Subaru:

Tommi Makinen is definitely on a high following his second place in Sweden and Petter Solberg will be desperate to kick-start his 2003 season, but the 2003-spec Impreza hasn't rallied on gravel yet. Makinen and test driver Pasi Hagstrom were gravel testing in Spain last week, but how much that will help them specifically in Turkey remains to be seen.

Hyundai:

Hyundai won't have the same disadvantage that it was on the Monte Carlo and Swedish Rally, where money worries prevented drivers Armin Schwarz and Freddy Loix from testing for the first two rallies of the season. Because Turkey is classed as a long-haul event, no team has tested for this rough gravel rally. On the negative side, last season the engine in Hyundai Accent WRC3 didn't always have the grunt required to get it up steep inclines - something we can expect to see in abundance in Turkey.

Original article from Car