This weekend’s Marmaris Rally Turkey may be in the spotlight following the news of its inclusion in the 2018 FIA World Rally Championship, but TOSFED’s premier rally is also the final round of the FIA Balkan Rally Trophy.
Thirty-nine teams will tackle 13 special stages in the mountains and hills overlooking Turkey’s stunning Turquoise Coast on Saturday and Sunday. The leading five drivers in four class categories at the end of the seven-round Balkan series will then be eligible for the final of the FIA European Rally Trophy, behind held in conjunction with Portugal’s Rali Casinos do Algarve in November.
The European Rally Trophy (ERT) is made up of a total of eight regional competitions that broadly follow the same technical and sporting regulations as the European Rally Championship (ERC).
Three categories are contested in each event – the main ERT class comprising of eligible R5 and S2000 machinery, ERT 2 for eligible Group N cars and ERT 3 for eligible 2WD Group R, Group A and Group N cars, plus Super 1600 and Group A kit cars. There is also an ERT Junior class for competitors born on or after 1 January 1990.
Nationally homologated cars may also compete in the countries where they are homologated, but are not eligible to score Trophy points. Eight rallies are permitted per region with a maximum of three taking place in a single country each season.
The FIA Balkan Rally Trophy consisted of seven rounds in 2017, with Marmaris Rally Turkey following two events in Bulgaria, two in Romania and other rallies in Turkey and Serbia. Local driver Yağiz Avci became embroiled in a battle with Romania’s Bogdan Marisca and fellow Turks Burak Çukorova and Orhan Avcioğlu as the season progressed. Çukorova also leads the 2017 Turkish Rally Championship.
Avci won the Bulgarian Rally in May and Turkey’s Rally Troia in July with Çukorova in second position in both events. Avcioğlu – winner of this event (Bosphorus Rally) in 2013 with a Ford Fiesta S2000 – was classified third in both Romania’s Raliul Aradului and Bulgaria’s Rally Sliven with his Toksport Ford Fiesta. A crucial victory followed for the Turk in the Serbia Rally last month.
Winners from the Alpine, Benelux, Baltic, Celtic, Central and Iberian Trophies will join Balkan competitors in the Algarve. Drivers include the likes of Lithuania’s Benediktas Vanagas, Dutchman Hermen Kobus, Ireland’s Sam Moffett, Czech driver Ondrej Bisaha, Alexandre Camacho and Pedro Meireles from Portugal and Spaniard Christian Garcia.
Two-time rally winner Avci (2011-Bosphorus) and 2016-Marmaris) starts as one of the favourites to win this weekend at the wheel of his Peugeot 208 T16 R5. But the Turk faces competition from the Ford Fiesta R5s of Murat Bostanci and privateer Deníz Fahrí and five Skoda Fabia R5s in the hands of FIA Balkan Rally Trophy rivals Avcioğlu and Çukorova, Cyprus-based Mustafa Bulutoğullari, Erkan Güral and Uğur Soylu. Bostanci won the event on two occasions in 2014 and 2015 in a Ford Fiesta S2000 when it was based in Istanbul.
Hakki Ağaoğlu will also be targeting the podium in his Peugeot 207 S2000. On an event dominated by Turkish entries, the Bulgarian pairing of Georgi Geradzhiev and Georgi Gadzhev (Ford Fiesta R2) and the Cypriot duo of Alexandros Tsouloftas and Antonis Chrystomou (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX) offer international resistance.
There are also 10 Ford Fiesta R2s and STs running at the rear of the field under the Ford Motorsport Turkey banner and entered in the RC3 and RC4 classes.
The ceremonial start takes place on 19 Mayis Genclik Meydani from 20.00hrs on Friday evening.