After a string of gravel rallies, the FIA World Rally Championship is set for the first true asphalt event of the season, the OMV ADAC Rallye (August 26-28). This German event provides a cocktail of challenging conditions and the Mitsubishi Lancer...
After a string of gravel rallies, the FIA World Rally Championship is set for the first true asphalt event of the season, the OMV ADAC Rallye (August 26-28). This German event provides a cocktail of challenging conditions and the Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05 crew of Harri Rovanpera and Risto Pietilainen will again be joined by Italians "Gigi" Galli and Guido d'Amore.
This central European rally is essentially based at the service park in Bostalsee, 60 kilometers south east of Trier. However, the start, finish and Parc Ferme each evening remains in Germany's oldest town, the Roman city of Trier on the River Mosel. The area is renowned for its white wine and is located just east of the Luxembourg border and 240 kilometers to the southwest of Frankfurt, its central location guaranteeing spectators from a number of neighboring countries. The event provides a challenging blend of conditions for the crews, with each leg based in a different region and run over a mix of different surfaces. Therefore, numerous set-up changes are potentially required. Added to which, the weather can change quickly and precise information about the shifting conditions is vital to ensure crews are not caught out on the wrong tires.
Rallye Deutschland entered the series in 2002 and this is the only year Harri Rovanpera contested the event, in the Peugeot 206 WRC. It was however an unsuccessful outing with co-driver Voitto Silander, the pair troubled with differential problems before being forced into retirement when they lost the rear wing, lost downforce and the back end of the car hit a gate and broke the suspension.
"We have been having some good fights recently and hopefully we can achieve some good speed and performance on this rally too", commented Harri. "Our Tarmac test went well and we will be running the active center differential which I hope will help too. A good set-up is obviously important, but the weather and tires are key factors on this event. The day I tested was wet and maybe this could be perfect for the conditions we will find in Germany, because the weather can change dramatically and very quickly. The stages in the vineyards are difficult with too many junctions and the military roads at Baumholder are very fast, bumpy and can be dangerous. The stages in the Saarland region are better but in general the rally is difficult. But this is the same for everyone and I hope we can make a good result for the team".
Team-mates Gigi Galli and Guido d'Amore have marginally more experience of the conditions, but the Italians too have disappointing memories. In 2002, when competing in the Super 1600 category, they were forced to withdraw after losing so much time with brake problems, and last year they were out after an accident in Mitsubishi's Group N Lancer Evolution. Both crews are under no illusion that this event will be an easy one to conquer.
"Our Tarmac test was very focused on these German roads and we will try to do something good for the team, but this is another very particular event in the calendar and we will only know what progress we have made on Tarmac once we are there and competing", said Gigi. "The car has been improving rally by rally and we have good reliability now, so I am hoping a smooth run will let us show the progress we continue to make. I find the roads tricky though, very bumpy and narrow and if you have an accident it will probably be a big one - like ours in Baumholder last year. The weather in this region is inconsistent, which also makes it a very difficult rally, but I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking all this".
Adding to the drivers' comments, Isao Torii, Head of Mitsubishi Motor Sports said: "It is a long time since the first sealed surface event in Monte-Carlo, but we have conducted a good test. Gilles Panizzi worked with the team during the test and seems to have found good solutions for the suspension, transmission, engine management and tires for these conditions. Germany is a very tricky rally and we were victims of the conditions last year, but there were many top drivers and teams in the same situation. Our priority is to complete the rally with both cars in the points and I have confidence in the team and believe we can achieve this goal. Step by step we must improve again and get some good results in Germany and GB before going to Rally Japan".
Commenting on the challenge ahead, Yasuo Tanaka, the team's Technical Director said: "This event is a very specialized Tarmac rally and our key area of improvement is with the active center differential, although this is still undergoing further development. There are a number of small changes that will hopefully see us with better performance on this surface. Our last Tarmac test in France, in July, was positive. The drivers had a good feeling and seem to be happy".
OMV ADAC Rallye officially starts at the Porta Nigra (Black Gate) in Trier on Thursday August 25, but the crews re-start in Bostalsee on Friday for the opening leg over the picturesque but narrow and bumpy roads in the Mosel vineyards. Here, square junctions and fast straight roads are lined with tall vines, requiring precision driving. The leg takes in six stages and 119.38 competitive kilometers. On Saturday, the Baumholder military area poses a totally different challenge, although some stages also take the crews to the Saarland region. Wide open spaces draw spectators in their thousands but the concrete-based ranges are awash with large boulders all too ready to catch out the unwary. The second leg, covering seven stages - including a super special stage at St. Wendel - could provide dramatic action, especially if wet. Sunday's closing day of competition takes the crews to the wider and more flowing roads in the Saarland region for five stages before returning to St. Wendel for the climax of the event at the 6.24 kilometer super special stage. In total, OMV ADAC Rallye takes in 19 special stages and 355.40 competitive kilometers in a total distance of 1,298.25 kilometers before the finish in Trier.