Hyundai hit by bad luck in Germany. It was predicted that the second day of Rallye Deutschland was going to be a challenge and Hyundai Castrol World Rally Team crews Armin Schwarz/Manfred Hiemer and Freddy Loix/Sven Smeets were no exception from...
Hyundai hit by bad luck in Germany.
It was predicted that the second day of Rallye Deutschland was going to be a challenge and Hyundai Castrol World Rally Team crews Armin Schwarz/Manfred Hiemer and Freddy Loix/Sven Smeets were no exception from crews who suffered, both being cruelly forced into retirement during the early stages of the day.
The stages on leg two traversed the heathland of the Baumholder military ranges southeast of Trier and were rumoured to be unlike anything else experienced in the World Rally Championship. The roads are made of very abrasive concrete which is laid in blocks resulting in lips at each end making it very bumpy. There are corners that cannot be challenged for fear of breaking something and a number of competitors suffered.
Local favourite Armin Schwarz and co-driver Manfred Hiemer made a good start to the event setting competitive times, three of which were fifth fastest and left for leg two quietly confident. Unfortunately the Germans were struck by bad luck on the second stage of the day, when a punctured tyre which could not be changed as the spare had already been used, affected the handling of the Accent WRC" - one high speed corner proved too much and the crew crashed heavily off the road into the trees - destroying the car.
Both crews were flown to hospital for precautionary checks - an x-ray showed that Armin had a fractured dislocated third rib and Manfred experienced bruising from the force of the accident. Armin Schwarz commented: "That was one of the biggest accidents of my career and it was quite frightening. We got a front right puncture during stage 9 and we changed the wheel afterwards as the rim was broken. Then we noticed another puncture in the rear right but we had to start stage 10 and although the mousse did its job, I think it might have affected the handling. A few kilometres before the end we were braking into a right-hand bend at about 100-120kph and I'm not too sure what happened but we just went off to the left. The left side of the car hit a tree then we got lodged on a tree on the right side."
Armin and Manfred will both visit their medical teams at home to decide what treatment is required to make a speedy recovery.
Belgian team-mates Freddy Loix and Sven Smeets also made a good start to the event setting a third fastest time amongst a string of top ten performances which allowed them to climb as high as sixth position. A misfire on the final stage of the day caused oil pressure problems and when the pair started the Accent WRC" the following morning it lost all of its oil. Unable to carry out repairs they were denied the chance to continue their impressive challenge.
Team Principal David Whitehead commented, "Our initial performance clearly displayed that the Accent WRC" has the speed and agility to allow us to compete with the top teams. Sadly, Armin's horrendous accident and Freddy's minor problem has not allowed us to record what was set to be our best finish yet.
"The fact that Armin and Manfred suffered only minor injuries shows how strong the car is and we hope they will make a rapid recovery. As for Freddy, he is undoubtedly knocking on the door for a podium finish."
News from our rivals
Leg two was eventful and saw four leading retirements. Philippe Bugalski (Citroen) went off the road damaging an oil pipe resulting in a loss of oil pressure. Achim Mortl (Subaru) retired after going off the road in SS9 and hit a tree causing irreparable damage. Team-mate Petter Solberg damaged a wheel in stage 11 and was not able to continue and Toni Gardemeister (Skoda) rolled during the penultimate stage of the day. Kenneth Eriksson (Skoda) lost almost 10 minutes through the course of the leg with a broken driveshaft, Harri Rovanpera (Peugeot) lost time with a drop in hydraulic pressure during stage 11 and rally leader Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) damaged his steering after hitting a rock. Despite the incident, Loeb managed to hold onto the lead and was 10.1 seconds ahead of second-placed Richard Burns (Peugeot). Burns' team-mate Marcus Gronholm successfully worked his way back to third position, ahead of Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz (both Ford) in fourth and fifth.
The third and final leg covers the remaining 102 kilometres in the countryside surrounding St.Wendel and concludes with a final run of the superspecial stage, before surviving crews return to the finish ramp in Trier at 16:00hrs.