German Rally Of Endurance Sees Solberg Secure Seventh
One of the most technical rallies on the FIA World Rally Championship calendar – ADAC Rallye Deutschland - proved drama-filled for the M-Sport Stobart Ford World Rally Team but Norway’s Henning Solberg successfully finished the first all-asphalt round of the season seventh overall.
Britain’s Matthew Wilson battled through a series of setbacks to finish 12th in a Ford Fiesta RS WRC. Team-mate Aaron Burkart finished his debut outing in the team’s other Fiesta RS WRC 23rd overall despite a couple of small issues during the rally’s first two days. M-Sport Stobart’s fourth team-mate Mads Østberg was forced to retire on the final day of competition after hitting a wall and damaging the car’s front two wheels.
Solberg had no test prior to Rallye Deutschland but the experienced Norwegian quickly adapted to driving the Ford Fiesta RS WRC on the fast and slippery sealed surface to finish the first day seventh overall.
The second day saw an enthralling three-way battle evolve between Solberg, former Formula One Champion Kimi Räikkönen and fellow Ford Fiesta RS WRC driver Dennis Kuipers. Solberg reported braking and steering issues but finished the second day in the Baumholder military region just 6.2 seconds behind Räikkönen.
Solberg and co-driver Ilka Minor were unable to catch Räikkönen on the final day’s stages due to a small handbrake issue but were pleased to mark their first asphalt rally in a World Rally Car since 2009 with a strong points finish.
Wilson and co-driver Scott Martin reported difficulties finding the right car set-up on Friday but the pair made progress throughout the repeat loop of three stages to finish the first day 12th overall.
Saturday morning saw the 24-year-old driver clip a small tree half-way through the day’s opening stage which was followed by a heavy landing on the lengthy 34.18 km Arena Planzerplatte stage which caused discomfort in Wilson’s back and chest. The Cumbrian driver nursed himself through the repeat afternoon loop and finished just 3.9 seconds adrift of 11th place.
Sunday’s stages saw Wilson consolidate his 12th place finish and the duo were pleased to reach the end of such a difficult event despite a series of setbacks over the course of the weekend.
Former J-WRC champion Aaron Burkart had an impressive start during Friday’s opening stage. However, the German was unlucky when a stone damaged the car’s brake pipe on the day’s closing stage and Burkart decided to call it a day due to significant time lost trying to repair the damage.
Burkart and fellow countryman Andre Kachel returned for Saturday’s stages under SupeRally regulations and despite a small problem with the front right driveshaft, the pair climbed the leaderboard to finish the day in 35th.
A trouble-free day followed for Burkart on Sunday apart from a puncture on the closing Power Stage and the German driver climbed the overall WRC leaderboard to finish his home event 23rd overall.
An incident on ADAC Rallye Deutschland’s opening day knocked Mads Østberg out of competitive battle but the 23-year-old was keen to use the rally’s remaining stages to learn more about asphalt and to gain experience on the fast German roads. Despite suffering two punctures on Saturday’s closing stages, Østberg and co-driver Jonas Andersson moved up the WRC leaderboard from 26th into 22nd at the end of Day 2.
Sunday, however, proved less fortunate for the Scandinavian duo who crashed into a wall on the second stage and damaged the front two wheels off their Ford Fiesta RS WRC. Both Østberg and Andersson were unharmed but were forced to call it a day after a challenging event.
Henning Solberg said:
“Tarmac has never been my favourite road surface but I am happy to get back to seventh place. It’s not been easy, there’s been a few small problems with the car and the cuts in the road this afternoon made it very difficult to stay on the road. I managed my brakes better today - during Friday and Saturday I was finding it hard to find the right balance and they kept overheating. Next I must look to Australia – I want to finish in the top five, it would have been a big challenge this weekend for me to get up there but I think I can achieve this next time.”
Matthew Wilson said:
“For sure, it’s been a difficult weekend and I am a little frustrated. On the plus side, we’ve made it to the end and we’ve learned a lot over the weekend. Before we started the first stage today we saw Dennis leave in front of us there was a big downpour. It made the first few kilometres very difficult but I think it helps sum up our weekend as it’s just been one thing after another for us. I’m looking forward to getting back on gravel in Australia next month - it’s a brand new location so the stages are going to be a new challenge for everyone.”
Mads Østberg said:
“It’s not gone how I wanted this weekend – yesterday we had two punctures and had a small off on the first stage. Our accident on the second stage was a rare pacenote mistake. We had two fast corners one after another and then on the left-hand corner I went flat out in fifth gear. We really didn’t have a chance and we hit a kerb and tore both front wheels off and crashed straight into a wall. I’m actually relieved we hit the kerb as it kept us on the road - it was a sharp drop on the other side. The impact was really hard and it’s an expensive crash but we’re both OK so that is the most important thing. Even though we’ve not had a good weekend, I must look at the positives and appreciate the experience we’ve had on asphalt – it’s a surface I know very little about and I’ve certainly learned a lot this weekend. Now we must try and move on and concentrate trying to secure some more rallies for later in the year.”
Aaron Burkart said:
“I don’t know how to say this in English but I feel like one part of me is smiling and the other part of me is crying. I am quite happy with how everything has gone this weekend but we have also had some small troubles which has affected our final result. But I have really enjoyed driving the car and the M-Sport team were very good. In general the feedback we received was positive and I was pleased with the times we were setting. Overall it’s been a good weekend and of course I am also very happy to reach the end of a difficult rally on my home event.”