With the last seven WRC rounds contested on gravel, Rally Deutschland is the first of three asphalt events scheduled for the remainder of the season. Based in the countryside around Trier, the oldest city in Germany, the event presents crews with...
With the last seven WRC rounds contested on gravel, Rally Deutschland is the first of three asphalt events scheduled for the remainder of the season. Based in the countryside around Trier, the oldest city in Germany, the event presents crews with some of the most specialist stages in the Championship.
Stage conditions vary between the narrow vineyard roads of the Mosel region with its long, fast straights featuring 90-degree corners, the smooth roads of Saarland and the bumpy, rough concrete tracks of the Baumholder military ranges. Designed for tank training exercises, the army roads are unlike anything else in the Championship. Flanked by huge, unforgiving concrete kerbstones, the wide asphalt sections are abrasive and dirty, while a fine dusting of sand makes them exceptionally slippery when wet. With this year's rally scheduled in August, when weather conditions are likely to be changeable, the event's mix of road surfaces is expected to prove a tough challenge for drivers and tyres alike.
The only WRC event held in central Europe, Rally Deutschland is especially popular with fans. Last year more than 270,000 flocked to the stages to watch their favourite drivers in action and this year should be no different. A three-day event, the Rally comprises three legs, 411.06 competitive kilometres and 24 stages. There will be a single service area at Bostalsee, which is 60km from Trier, and the winning car is expected to cross the finish ramp at 1530hrs on Sunday 22 August.
Citroen is back on the hard stuff this weekend (20-22 August 2004) and aiming for its third German victory as the World Rally Championship has its first tarmac event since the Monte Carlo at the start of the season. With its lead in both the Drivers' and Manufacturers' matched to its tarmac form, the team could not be better placed to maintain its winning ways.
Sebastien Loeb / Daniel Elena: "I was very pleased with the Xsara I drove during pre-event testing and I am happy with the work that has been done," he says. "The car was easy to drive and nicely balanced. I felt confident, and that is important given how delicate the conditions can be. For once, being first on the road during the opening leg shouldn't be a handicap. We have some good cards in our hand and we don't have our backs to the wall, which means we can choose our own tactics. I feel confident!"
Carlos Sainz / Marc Marti: "I have occasionally read in the press that this is a rally I don't like. That's not strictly true! For sure, it's not my favourite, but that doesn't mean I don't like it... There are certain rallies on which I don't derive as much pleasure as elsewhere, but they are part of the championship and you have got to concentrate on doing your best. That's what I will be doing in Germany with the intention of finishing in the big points again..."
After demonstrating its competitive pace on gravel, the Subaru Impreza WRC2004 will make its tarmac debut next week as the FIA World Rally Championship moves to Germany for round ten of the series, Rallye Deutschland. Like most WRC competitors, Petter Solberg has contested the event just twice before. At a crucial point in his 2004 title campaign, he's hoping to repeat the smooth surface form that helped him win in Corsica last year. Driving the second Subaru, Finnish driver Mikko Hirvonen has contested the event only once before. The young Finn will be aiming to demonstrate a good pace in his Subaru Impreza and gain more Championship points for the team.
Petter Solberg / Phil Mills: "The overall result in Finland was not so good for us, but the thing now is to put it behind us, keep positive and move on. I've done that already. Germany is a great event. Bizarrely, I was ill during the event last year, which was exactly the same time as Finland this year when I was not so well again! Maybe it's something about those dates! I'm fully recovered now though, which is good news, and I'm looking forward to getting back in the car. We've made some improvements, the aerodynamics of the car are better, and we've proved that it's good on the quick stuff. A lot of small details have come together to make us faster. We set some good times last year and I enjoy the challenge of the different stages, so I hope for a good finish!"
Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen: "I was disappointed by my mistake on Leg one in Finland and felt really sorry for the team, but, that said, we proved the pace of the car and I was pleased by my times on the Friday and Sunday. It's always interesting to start events you're not that familiar with and, as I've only done the German event once before, it's hard to know exactly what to expect. I like driving on tarmac events, it's great when you have good confidence in the car and, having completed some good testing on asphalt in the Subaru, I feel very positive. However, for me, Germany doesn't feel like a true asphalt event due to the speeds and changing conditions of the stages. The surface alters all the time and can be very dirty and bumpy. It can be hard to judge when you have grip and when you don't."
Ford's 2004 Focus RS World Rally Car will make its asphalt debut on the unique roads of the Rallye Deutschland (19 - 22 August) next week. The FIA World Rally Championship is heading into the 10th of 16 rounds. But after six consecutive gravel events since the car's first appearance in New Zealand in April, the roads of western Germany will offer the first opportunity for the BP-Ford World Rally Team to compete on a sealed surface with the car.
Markko Martin / Michael Park: Martin, lying third in the championship, finished sixth in 2002 and fifth last year and has as much experience of the tricky roads as anyone. "The rally is very different to the other asphalt events in the championship," said the 28-year-old Estonian. "There are many different road surfaces and it's not unusual to find several surface changes on the same stage. When it rains it's difficult to spot which surface has good grip and which doesn't. "Baumholder is tricky because the roads are fast, the kerb stones are huge and if it is warm and dry then tyre wear becomes crucial. The vineyard roads demand total concentration because it's easy to miss a braking point and overshoot a junction. Sand on the road is probably the biggest worry. It makes corners incredibly slippery and with gravel crews banned, it will be especially difficult on the second pass through stages to spot where the danger places are." Martin, who is still recovering from his Rally Argentina accident in July, has been resting since the Rally Finland. "I still feel quite tired but I don't expect that to be a problem by the time the rally starts in Germany," he added.
Francios Duval / Stefan Prevot: Rallye Deutschland is effectively the 'home' rally for Belgian duo Duval and Prevot and a large number of his fellow countrymen are expected to make the short journey to cheer him on. "It's a difficult rally on which to judge the pace," said 23-year-old Duval. "The roads are slippery everywhere and the weather can change all the time which makes conditions even harder. The stages on Baumholder are probably the most difficult because there are many small stones on the road and many big stones by the side that can destroy the car immediately. And in the vineyards the asphalt is slippery, with mud patches on the road in virtually every corner. It will be important to drive carefully because it's easy to make a mistake. "We have a good road position for this rally. On the first day we will start sixth and that's about right. The first three or four cars will struggle if the vineyards roads are really slippery but for us the conditions should be better. These stages are similar to the roads at home in Belgium on which I started my career. I'm used to them and I enjoy them," added Duval.
While the first half of the season failed to be as successful for Peugeot as the French outfit had been hoping, Marcus Gr0x00f6nholm's recent victory in Finland - Round 9 of the sixteen-round 2004 calendar - was naturally a tremendous boost for the morale of the entire team. With a win now under the 307 WRC's belt to prove the car's speed and competitiveness, Peugeot's intention from now until the end of the year will be to fight for first place in every one of the remaining rounds with the intention of helping Marcus Gr0x00f6nholm in his bid to clinch the Drivers' title.
Marcus Gronholm / Timo Rautiainen: "We want to win Rallye Deutschland and we have a good chance. The mixture of stages in Saarland, vine yards and on Baumholder military tracks makes this rally very challenging. I hope on dry weather because then we can push a lot. If it rains on Rallye Deutschland the tracks will turn extremely slippery and dangerous. The rally is the first proper asphalt event of the season. I am anxious to see where we are compared to the opposition."
Cedric Robert in the 2nd nominated Peugeot seems a bit of a surprise. However he already has experience of the event. Last year he finished 9th overall in a privateer Peugeot 206 WRC, beating Gilles Panizzi on that occasion. Maybe more amazing even was his 11th place overall at Rallye Deutschland 2002 in an S1600 Peugeot 206 XS - the best overall result for an S1600 car until rule changes for 2004 meant reduced entry fields.
Freddy Loix / Sven Smeets: Freddy Loix will drive a non-nominated 3rd car. As the Peugeot press release reads: "With no obligation to ensure Manufacturers' points for the team, the Belgian will be free to attack as he sees fit." Isn't this another signal for the Belgian that he needs to show how good he is.
The Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports WRC team tackles another fresh challenge on Rallye Deutschland (August 19-22), this central European event being the first full asphalt round of the series. Tarmac ace Gilles Panizzi will once again spearhead the team's assault and will be joined by Spaniard Dani Sol0x00e0 for the 10th round of the FIA World Rally Championship. Team-mate Dani Sol0x00e0 has clearly got the measure of Rallye Deutschland and the Spaniard, who will be co-driven by Xavier Amigo, not only won the Junior World Rally Championship category in 2002 but also the Production Car World Rally Championship round last year. Sol0x00e0 is now looking forward to a competitive outing in the Lancer WRC04 on one of his most successful events.
Gilles Panizzi / Herve Panizzi: I have to say it's not one of my favorite events," said Gilles. "It has very special conditions and is very different to say Corsica or Catalunya and the nature of the roads is very changeable throughout the event. For me I would say it's a treacherous rally, especially in the military area where there are huge concrete blocks on the outside of long and fast corners. We won't have any new parts for this rally so it's difficult to say where we will be, but we will be trying, as ever."
Dani Sol0x00e0: I like the rally because it is Tarmac, but it's a strange and different event; totally different to other asphalt rallies," said Dani. "But for me it is challenging because the surface and weather changes a lot. Sure, I have won the JWRC and PWRC events, but now I am doing WRC and I don't have so much experience of this car on Tarmac, but my plan is to do my job as well as possible. It is difficult to know how we can perform; in Finland the car was improved but we have to wait and see what we can do on Tarmac, especially as there is a very good entry for this rally."
Skoda Motorsport celebrates the first birthday of the Fabia WRC at Rallye Deutschland (August 20-22). It was at this event one year ago that the car made its WRC debut and this year, for its first anniversary, the regular driving partnership of Armin Schwarz and Toni Gardemeister will be joined by experienced Czech driver Roman Kresta. As in Finland, where Jani Paasonen drove the third Fabia WRC, the purpose of entering three cars is to maximise the chance to evaluate the latest developments on the car. With testing not permitted during August and then five events scheduled for the Skoda Motorsport World Rally Team during September and October, there is great value to be gained by having a third car in Germany.
Toni Gardemeister / Paavo Lukander: "This is one of my favourite events because I really like the area around Trier. I hope that the weather is good because this rally can be very difficult if it is wet, especially in Baumholder."
Armin Schwarz / Manfred Hiemer: "Rallye Deutschland is an important rally to me of course as it is my home event. We have completed a lot of testing for the event and I also won the Saarland Rally in June as part of our development programme. The stages are different each day with twisty and tight roads through the vineyards on Friday, dirty concrete in Baumholder on Saturday and then nice flowing stages in Saarland on Sunday. You need a really good asphalt car for day one and three but sometimes you almost need a gravel car for day two!"
Roman Kresta: "I am very happy about joining the Skoda Motorsport team for this event. I have tested the car and it felt very good. I have got my own settings for the different days of the rally and so I am ready. Saturday will be a long day and the most difficult but I was second fastest on Panzerplatte last year - and won St Wendel the same evening - so it could be a good day."
Weather Forecast @Storms are possible during the event making for slippery tarmac conditions.