The Citroen drivers get to grips with asphalt The C2 Junior Experience drivers will start the Rally Germany in front of an enthusiastic and sophisticated crowd next Thursday night, in front of the Porta Nigra in Trier. The occasion marks the...
The Citroen drivers get to grips with asphalt
The C2 Junior Experience drivers will start the Rally Germany in front of an enthusiastic and sophisticated crowd next Thursday night, in front of the Porta Nigra in Trier. The occasion marks the first asphalt rally of the year for the Juniors, and for most of them it is an eagerly- awaited fixture.
In the style of Sebastien Loeb and his all-conquering Xsara WRC, which has claimed five consecutive victories on the event, the Citroen C2 Super 1600 has also proved unbeatable on German asphalt. In 2005, Dani Sordo and Kris Meeke occupied the top two places on the podium, while in 2006 it was Kris Meeke who claimed the win. Yves Matton, Citroen's customer competition manager, reflects on the lessons learned from such strong performances in the past. " The C2 Super 1600 has always been quick on asphalt, whether it is in conditions such as Corsica or Catalunya, or alternatively Germany where the surfaces tend to be more unusual. This year, the Citroen drivers also have some experience of the terrain. On the last few rallies, their performances have notably improved. Now we need them to continue down this route, with the hope of further success in Germany. "
The C2 Junior Experience drivers enjoyed this rally last year as well just like Citroen C2 Super 1600 drivers Martin Prokop, Aaron Burkart and Conrad Rautenbach, who finished in the top 10. They come to the rally with a good idea of what to expect from the event, which will consist of 19 special stages in the area around Trier. They are all hoping to cross the finish ramp on Sunday leading the rally especially Aaron Burkart for whom it is a home event. Yves Matton adds: " It's his rally, so if there's any event where he would like to be at the forefront it's this one. His preparation and his knowledge of the route should help him to succeed in this challenge. "
The battle for the top in the C2-R2 category should be equally hectic. Yoann Bonato, PH Sport's C2-R2 driver, will be cheered on by several French fans who will have made the short trip across the border for the occasion. After a strong performance in Finland 10 days ago, he will now have to make his mark on stages which he described as being " just as difficult. " Yves Matton comments: "Yoann put in an astonishing performance in Finland, despite his lack of experience on gravel. We were more expecting to see that sort of pace from him in Germany. "
However, he won't be the only person battling to take the honours in the R2 category. Current leader Shaun Gallagher will be looking to continue his progress on what will be his penultimate rally of the season. Kronos Junior Team drivers Raphael Auquier and Gilles Schammel are also well prepared for the event, which will be virtually a home rally for them. The duo have promised to be " flat out " throughout all three days in order to score precious championship points. Matton concludes: " They both have experience of the territory. The advantage probably lies with Schammel, as he has competed on the Ypres Rally recently. The rally takes place not far from his native Luxembourg, so he has a big task ahead of him to fly the flag for his country. Both Kronos drivers need to use the asphalt rallies to their maximum advantage if they want to overhaul Gallagher in the standings. " Italian driver Stefano Benoni is more confident on asphalt than gravel, so he should also play a part in the proceedings.
The C2 Junior Experience will not be able to relax for a minute throughout the three tricky legs of the event, which are all very different from each other. Making life even more difficult will be Germany's notoriously unpredictable weather...
Quotes before ADAC Rallye Deutschland
Raphael Auquier (B)
Co-driver Cedric Pirotte (B)
"I don't know much about this rally, as I've only been once in 2006 as a spectator. From what I hear, the surfaces are very specialised, with some bits that are really slippery. I'm more used to this sort of surface, but I don't know if that means I will feel more comfortable than I do on gravel. Having just completed three loose-surface events, it's a question of getting used to asphalt rallies all over again. So we're going to do a quick test on Monday to get back up to speed again on this surface. I'm hoping for a very good result at the finish..."
Stefano Benoni (I)
Co-driver Enrico Cantoni (I)
"It's my very first Rallye Deutschland. I feel more confident on asphalt than I do on gravel, so I hope to get a better result than I did in Finland. Nonetheless, the experience I gained in Finland allowed me to build up a better feeling with my C2-R2. We've been quite consistent over the last two rounds and we hope to keep that same consistency in Germany, and hopefully do a little better as well."
Yoann Bonato (F)
Co-driver Benjamin Boulloud (F)
"On this asphalt rally, I know that there will be some seriously tough competition. I hope to do as well as I did in Finland, even though I know that this rally will be just as difficult. It's very easy to make a mistake on the German stages. The constantly-changing grip, the key braking areas and the knowledge of all the different surfaces are the key elements to success. We've got some good technical advice from Citroen though, so I hope to be right up there in the C2 Junior Experience classification once more."
Aaron Burkart (D)
Co-driver Michael Kolbach (D)
(Citroen C2 Super 1600)
"This is a very distinctive rally as the three legs are all very different to each other. The first day consists of narrow roads, which are quite tricky and twisty. There are a lot of stones, which means that punctures are common. The second leg is characterised by constantly- changing levels of grip. Once more, it's so easy to pick up a puncture there : last year it happened to us three times ! The final day is generally a bit easier, so you can push harder. I hope to be in the top three by the end of the event. That's our main goal particularly as we didn't score any points in Finland. I think I'm quicker on asphalt than on gravel and as we have three asphalt rounds to go now I'm determined to do a good job, starting in Germany."
Shaun Gallagher (EI)
Co-driver Clive Jenkins (GB)
"I'm quite confident of a good result on this rally. I've got plenty of asphalt experience, particularly from competing on the French Championship. So I really hope we can be right up there at the end in Germany. I know that there will be strong opposition though. Yoann Bonato and the Kronos Junior Team drivers will be quick but I'm not too bothered. It's a new challenge for me, and I'm keen to get started."
Martin Prokop (CZ)
Co-driver Jan Tomanek (CZ)
(Citroen C2 Super 1600)
"Germany is not my favorite rally, but I feel quite comfortable on asphalt. I know that we have the potential for a strong result and we've also got a very good set-up for our C2 Super 1600. Our aim is for a solid performance but there are many grip changes and very specific things about this rally that mean you have to approach it with caution. There will also be some very strong rivals in Germany, such as Urmo Aava who is very quick on asphalt. Let's see what happens!"
Conrad Rautenbach (ZW)
Co-driver David Senior (GB)
(Citroen C2 Super 1600)
"Germany is a very specific event, because it is just like having three rallies in one. Each leg is very different to all the others. It's important to prepare for this rally carefully, as the weather can change quickly from one stage to the next. That's one of the reasons why getting the right tyre choice is vital as well. Last year went well for me: I had a couple of problems with my car, but the C2 Super 1600 have a lot of potential on asphalt. I've seen that already in the testing we've done...."
Gilles Schammel (L)
Co-driver Renaud Jamoul (B)
"I chose to retire in Finland to look after my C2, and I hope that strategy will pay off now. Germany is the closest I have to a home rally. It's an asphalt event where I'm very hopeful of scoring points. Myself and my co-driver competed on the Ypres Rally in June to prepare for Germany, and that allowed us to have a better feeling with the car. We're keen to get going on the Rallye Deutschland now..."