The shortest of the event, Leg three comprised 98.38 competitive kilometres and seven stages (a loop of three repeated followed by a Super Special). Stages were based west of the service park in Bostalsee on the smooth roads of Saarland Early...
The shortest of the event, Leg three comprised 98.38 competitive kilometres and seven stages (a loop of three repeated followed by a Super Special). Stages were based west of the service park in Bostalsee on the smooth roads of Saarland
Early morning mist cleared, but conditions remained overcast all day. Air temperatures started at 8°C this morning, rising to 18°C by midday. Stages were mostly dry with some muddy sections
Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) extended his lead at the head of the championship to 29 points after a risk-free drive today. However, he could never afford to cruise with the hard-charging Duval closing in. Team-mate Carlos Sainz was unable to match's Duval's pace today but third promoted him to third in the championship. Cedric Robert (Peugeot) claimed fifth on his full debut for the French manufacturer ahead of team-mate Freddy Loix. The final drivers' points went to Toni Gardemeister (Skoda) and Mikko Hirvonen (Subaru), who moved ahead of ex-Formula 1 driver Stéphane Sarrazin. There were no major retirements today.
Sébastien Loeb, Daniel Elena and the Xsara WRC confirmed their position as pre- event favourites by winning in Trier for the third year in a row. This amazing performance was underlined by the superb third place claimed by Carlos Sainz and Marc Marti. It will also be remembered for the atrocious weather conditions, which made the first two days of the event so difficult. The Xsaras won nine of the twenty-four special stages, and led the race from beginning to end, Seb taking over, after SS2, from Carlos Sainz, the first event leader.
Sébastien Loeb / Daniel Elena: Almost bombarded with well-wishers when he arrived at the final service area, Sébastien admitted that he found it difficult to give a hierarchy to his three victories in this event, with which he has a particular affinity considering its proximity to his own area of Alsace : "2002 was the very first win of my career, so of course it was quite unforgettable. Last year's was important, as it was so close. This year, the gap might be wider, but the road conditions could have rubbed it all out at any moment. Overall," he smiled, delighted, "I have never really won easily here !" And the reason for this three-fold success ? "It's a rally where you have to both push and be patient, and that was even more true than ever this year. And you must be careful in such precarious conditions." The new positions in the Drivers' championship open up certain possibilities. "Of course, it is interesting," the leader admitted. "But as long as it is not over, we will stay as concentrated as possible."
Carlos Sainz / Marc Marti: Did the third place Carlos Sainz scored reconcile " El Matador " with the German rally ? "Almost !" the Spanish driver replied with a smile. "Marc and I have claimed our third podium in a row, thanks to both the team's excellent work and to our unyielding motivation. We are now third in the championship, and as well as the position, I am quite naturally very satisfied to see that I am still able to be up with the best."
Heading the Subaru challenge in Germany following Petter's retirement in Leg two, Mikko Hirvonen delivered a solid performance aboard his Subaru Impreza WRC2004 to move up the overall leaderboard and finish in eighth position. Today's spirited performance meant Mikko collected one Drivers' point and three Manufacturers' points for the Subaru team.
Petter Solberg / Phil Mills: Retired
Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen: I am happy to have finished this rally. It's been a challenging event due to the difficult conditions. Following a poor tyre choice this morning, we were pleased to make up time this afternoon, when I was happier with the tyres I selected, giving me both Manufacturers' and Drivers' points. When I'm on the right tyres, my confidence in the car is really good. However, when conditions are poor and I'm not 100 per cent sure on the tyres, I struggle a bit. I have learnt so much about the car on tarmac, driving in wet and slippery conditions and so much more about the Pirelli tyres. It's been very useful. The car was great all weekend and there is not a scratch on it, and from here it is to Japan and we'll be going flat out!
BP-Ford World Rally Team drivers François Duval and Stéphane Prévot produced the best performance of their careers to finish second on the Rallye Deutschland today in a Focus RS World Rally Car. Team-mates Markko Märtin and Michael Park were fourth in a similar Focus RS to climb to second in the FIA World Rally Championship and strengthen Ford's grip on second in the manufacturers' series. Duval and Prévot excelled on treacherous roads, especially during the opening two days, to win seven of the three-day rally's 24 speed tests and equal their best ever result. Torrential rain swamped the asphalt roads near Trier, in western Germany, washing mud and gravel onto the already demanding tracks to make driving perilous. Fog was an additional hazard on today's third and final leg but 23-year-old Duval revelled in the conditions and on special stages similar to those in his native Belgium.
Markko Martin / Michael Park: Märtin and Park had large time gaps both in front and behind them. With no possibility of moving up the leaderboard unless those ahead made a mistake, the 28-year-old Estonian driver adopted a cautious policy to consolidate fourth in his Castrol-branded Focus RS. "Today was OK but the roads were tricky and our emphasis was on surviving," said Märtin. "Many corners were quite muddy and damp under the trees and I pushed just enough to keep ahead of Robert. There was no point in taking risks. It hasn't been a particularly enjoyable weekend because the conditions have been so hard and I'm just glad to see the finish. To move into second in the championship is good but the gap between ourselves and Sebastien has increased so that's less good."
Francios Duval / Stefan Prevot: "This was my best ever drive," said Duval, who remains sixth in the drivers' standings. "I've really enjoyed the weekend because the weather and roads were so similar to rallies at home in Belgium. The conditions were very difficult but I've learned a lot and made big progress here. I pushed hard today and I really believe I could have won if it had not been for our time loss on Friday. The roads here are unlike anything else in the championship and we've had rain, fog, mud and even a little sunshine. It's been a tough challenge and second is a superb result for me and the team."
Peugeot drivers Cedric Robert and Freddy Loix have finished the Rallye Deutschland in fifth and sixth places respectively, after an exciting battle throughout the final day.
Marcus Gronhölm / Timo Rautiainen: Two-time World Champion Marcus Gronholm was unfortunately forced to retire on the first corner of the opening stage, after going off on some standing water. He completed the rest of the event in order to consolidate his asphalt experience, under the trial of the new Super Rally system.
Cedric Robert: Although Cedric was making his debut in the 307 WRC, he proved himself capable of setting times comparable with the frontrunners. He gradually built up his speed and confidence in the car, setting two fastest stage times and scoring valuable manufacturers' points for Peugeot. "It's been a fantastic experience" said Cedric. "To be in a top car competing against the world's best drivers is always a privilege. I started the rally with a degree of caution, because I wanted to be sure of seeing the finish. But I think we chose the right compromise between speed and safety, and I'm delighted to get this result."
Freddy Loix / Sven Smeets: Freddy set fastest time on the opening stage this morning, underlining his speed and determination at the wheel of the 307 WRC. He encountered a few problems on the opening leg of the rally, but fought back to set some competitive times and move up the leaderboard. His Peugeot was entirely reliable today, although he broke a wheel rim on the final loop of stages and dropped a bit of time. The Belgian said: "It's been a good event for us, despite a couple of problems on the opening day. But after then things got a lot better and I was able to make up a lot of places. This rally was not easy for me, as the conditions were constantly unpredictable. However, I really enjoyed it and I think we did our best under the circumstances. I'm looking forward to my next rally in the 307 WRC now!"
Rallye Deutschland confirmed the progress made by Skoda Motorsport's Fabia WRC development programme. Toni Gardemeister and Armin Schwarz finished the 411.06kms of slippery asphalt stages in 7th and 11th places respectively. Czech driver Roman Kresta retired from sixth position after sliding off the road on the first stage of Saturday's second leg. Despite treacherous weather conditions, all three drivers set competitive stage times throughout the rally. Armin recorded the first stage win for the Fabia at WRC level on SS13 and five more top six times during the event. Toni got into the top six on six occasions and Roman also took a top three time. The team had at least one Fabia in the top 10 on 22 of the 24 stages.
Toni Gardemeister / Paavo Lukander: "I am happy with the overall result here because the conditions have been terrible. The roads were quite dry today but they were still very slippery and there was so little grip. I was safe from attack from behind so I just drove carefully to be sure of our final result. Throughout the event I have concentrated on trying to drive consistently and I think that we achieved our overall result because of this. The car's performance on asphalt has improved a lot and the handling balance is really good."
Armin Schwarz / Manfred Hiemer: "I think that this has been a really good team performance and with Toni seventh it was like our Finland result all over again. Of course I am a bit disappointed with my own personal placing but I concentrated on trying to set fast times. We showed that the Fabia WRC is much closer to Citroen, Peugeot, Ford and Subaru than ever before and that is a fantastic reflection of the car's performance."
Roman Kresta: Retired
Gilles Panizzi / Herve Panizzi: Retired.
Dani Solà / Xavier Amigo: Retired.
Teams move east next month as they prepare for round eleven of the FIA World Rally Championship, the eagerly anticipated Rally Japan. Starting on Friday 3 September, the new WRC event will be run entirely on gravel and be based around the Tokachi region in Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost island. Crews will contest a series of twisty, narrow gravel tracks and 27 stages. The longest stage will be the Niueo stage at 26.57km, and the shortest the Satsunai Super Special at 2.2km.