WRC

Rally Deutschland: Preview

After nine consecutive loose surface rallies, Rallye Deutschland is the first all-asphalt event since Monte Carlo, and the first of three such events scheduled for the remainder of the season. Based in the countryside around Trier, the oldest city...

After nine consecutive loose surface rallies, Rallye Deutschland is the first all-asphalt event since Monte Carlo, and the first of three such events scheduled for the remainder of the season. Based in the countryside around Trier, the oldest city in Germany, the rally presents crews with some of the most specialist stages of the year.

The event is made up of two old German national rallies rolled into one, and each Leg has a very distinctive character. Stage conditions vary between the narrow vineyard roads of the Mosel region with its long, fast straights and 90-degree corners, the smooth roads of Saarland and the bumpy, rough concrete tracks of the Baumholder military ranges. Designed for tank training exercises, the army roads are unlike anything else in the Championship. Flanked by huge, unforgiving concrete kerbstones, the wide asphalt sections are abrasive and dirty, while a fine dusting of sand makes them exceptionally slippery when wet. The military area was the scene of several high-profile accidents in 2004, so this time the route is being re-designed to make it safer. With this year's rally scheduled in August, when weather conditions are likely to be changeable, the event's mix of road surfaces is expected to prove a tough challenge for drivers and tyres alike.

The only WRC event held in central Europe, Rallye Deutschland is especially popular with fans. Last year more than 200,000 flocked to the stages to watch their favourite drivers in action and this year should be no different. The rally comprises three Legs, 355 competitive kilometres and 19 timed special stages. There will be a single service area at Bostalsee, which is 60km from Trier. The winning car is expected to cross the finish ramp at 1630hrs on Sunday 28 August.

The rally retains its tried and tested format with a mix of stages in the Mosel vineyards, on the Baumholder military land and in Saarland, each offering totally different characteristics. The rally begins with a ceremonial start at Trier's historic Porta Nigra on Thursday evening before Friday's opening leg heads into the tricky vineyard roads. Leg two is the longest of the rally. The bulk of the competitive distance is in Baumholder and the day ends with a spectacular test around the streets of St Wendel. The final leg is centred in Saarland, the rally ending with a repeat of the St Wendel test before reaching the finish ceremony back in Trier. Drivers tackle 355.40km of competition in a route of 1298.25km.

Citroen

Victory with Philippe Bugalski and Jean-Paul Chiaroni on the 2001 Rally of Germany, the year before the event's inclusion in the World Championship, began a sequence of wins for the Citroën Xsara in Germany which has continued with three consecutive successes for Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena in 2002, 2003 and 2004. The question is: Can it continue this weekend (25-28 August 2005) when the World Rally Championship returns to Germany?

Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena: "They say I'm favourite, but I still prefer to be very cautious! None of my previous wins here were easy. Every year I have had a fight on my hands all the way to the finish. And the weather has occasionally complicated things. 'Bosenberg' was very wet last year and it was a case of doing all you could just to keep the car on the road to complete the stage without damage. You risked going off every time you turned the steering wheel. I think they were the most difficult conditions I have ever come across I therefore feel confident, but I'm also very wary!"

Francois Duval/Sven Smeets: "I would really like to finish on the podium. I did last year and that's a very nice recollection. Given the Xsara's potential, I think a podium is possible. A dry weekend would simplify things. When we did our Deutschland Rally testing, everything went very well but I didn't come across any rain. I therefore have very little experience of the car on wet asphalt. So if it does rain, I won't be as quick. I'm hoping for dry conditions... and a podium."

Subaru

The Subaru Impreza WRC2005 will make its asphalt rally debut next week when the FIA World Rally Championship moves to Germany for round 11 of the series, Rallye Deutschland. Subaru will enter a three-car team on Rallye Deutschland. The three Impreza WRC2005's will be driven by Petter Solberg (co-driven by Phil Mills) Stephane Sarrazin (co-driven by Denis Giraudet) and Chris Atkinson (co-driven by Glenn Macneall). On this event Petter and Stephane will be eligible to score points in the 2005 FIA Championship for Manufacturers. Petter has competed in Germany three times before. His best result came in 2003 when he finished eighth. An encouraging start to the rally last year was brought to a dramatic end on Leg two, when his car crashed into one of the concrete blocks that line the military roads. Returning to the WRC after his last rally in Greece, Stephane Sarrazin made an impressive Rallye Deutschland debut in 2004, finishing ninth overall in a privately entered Impreza WRC. Next week will mark Chris Atkinson's debut on the rally.

Petter Solberg/Phil Mills: "Last year's rally was a very frightening one for Phil and I, and I hope that the changes that have been made to the stages will improve things for all the competitors this time. The team has worked very hard on the tarmac specification car; there are lots of little improvements all around, and I'm looking forward to getting out on the roads next week. Pirelli too have worked hard and have come up with some additional tyre options for us. At this stage in the season things are tough, and there's a lot of pressure on us but I'm remaining positive. My aim for the rally is to get on the podium, but of course I'll push for better if that looks possible. We'll have to wait and see how the whole package works on Friday."

Stephane Sarrazin/Denis Giraudet: "Rally Germany will be interesting as it's the first WRC rally that I will start for a second time. I enjoyed my first attempt last year and the stage times were pretty good, so I'm keen to see what I can do this year with the full backing of a manufacturer team. I tested the WRC2005 Impreza on tarmac at the end of June and again this week and it feels very good. Of course we won't know how quick we are compared to the others until Friday morning, but I'm feeling very positive and ready to give my best effort. I still have a lot to learn about the car, but next week I hope to be able to score some points for the team - that's my objective."

Chris Atkinson/Glen MacNeall: "This will be my first attempt at a proper WRC tarmac rally and I'm expecting it to be a steep learning curve. This year's all about learning and gaining experience, but this rally is going to be a bigger challenge than normal. On this occasion, my stage times are not the primary consideration, instead I'm aiming to achieve a good understanding of the car and set-up and complete the route. The roads are notoriously difficult, with constantly changing surfaces and I'll be trying my best not to get caught out. I've done only one small tarmac rally before, that was in China in a Group N Subaru, but that's the limit of my experience. I think the most difficult thing will be predicting the grip levels on the different surfaces. But I've been studying the video footage from previous years and am keen to get out there. I'm looking forward to the open, flowing roads of Leg three the most, from what I've seen they look closer to the conditions on the other tarmac events of the season."

Ford

After seven months and nine rallies of loose surface competition, BP-Ford World Rally Team drivers Toni Gardemeister and Jakke Honkanen and team-mates Roman Kresta and Jan Mo¾ný return to asphalt action on the OMV ADAC Rallye (25 - 28 August). The German round of the FIA World Rally Championship heralds the start of the 'asphalt season', with three of the final six events on sealed surface roads.

Toni Gardemeister/Jakke Honkanen: "This event is very difficult when the weather is changing all the time. But I've set some good times on previous occasions there and I hope to do the same again this year. The Baumholder stages are challenging, especially when it rains when they become incredibly slippery and muddy. I don't really enjoy driving on those roads with all the concrete blocks by the side of them," he said.

Roman Kresta/Jan Mozny: "If everything works well, then I'm confident that we can have a good result," said the 29-year-old. "It's a difficult event with unpredictable weather but our pre-event test to determine car setup was fantastic, with mixed weather conditions for two days, similar to those we've experienced in the past on this event. This was the first time we've tested the Focus RS WRC on asphalt and it was an incredible feeling." The Czech driver has no concerns about starting the event following a six-month break from co-driver Jan Tománek. "Jan and I are looking forward to competing together again. The roads we will tackle on Sunday are very similar to those in the Czech Republic so we'll both feel at home there! Having competed here twice before, we have some good pace notes," he commented. "I'm pleased that we will have a safety crew because tyre choice will be crucial and we want to be able to push really hard."

Peugeot

Thanks to the win of Marcus Grönholm and the 3rd place of Markko Märtin in Finland, Peugeot is on top of the provisional 2005 Manufacturers' World Championship standings as it turns its attention to the Deutschland Rally at the end of August. For the eleventh of the sixteen-round series, the French team's objective will be to add as many points as possible to its score with both drivers in order give itself the best possible chance of securing a further world title.

Marcus Gronhölm/Timo Rautiainen: "I sincerely believe it will be difficult to go for victory in Germany as I did in Finland," he admits. "The terrain will be less favourable to us. If it rains, however, the contest could become a little more open."

Markko Martin/Michael Park: "Germany is a very special rally. The stages tend to be made up of long straights and junctions, with plenty of accelerating and braking, but few long corners. It will be interesting to see how our car/tyre package works on this highly specific terrain. I was very pleased with my result in Finland. Thanks to new suspension settings, I had a good feeling with the car. The Deutschland Rally will be different. Like Marcus, I know we will have to push hard to defend the team's chances."

Skoda

The ©koda Motorsport World Rally Team heads to Rallye Deutschland (August 25-28) with a three-car entry. Armin Schwarz/Klaus Wicha lead the team on their home event while Alex Bengué/Caroline Escudero line up in the second car for the first time since Monte Carlo. A third Fabia WRC 05 will be driven by Czech Rally Champions Jan Kopecký/Filip Schovánek.

Armin Schwarz/Klaus Wicha: This is obviously a very important rally for me but although it's my home event I always try to treat it just like any other. The difference in the stages means that you have to adapt very quickly to changing conditions and changing surfaces. It is almost three rallies in one but luckily the Fabia WRC 05 is very flexible.

Alex Bengué/Caroline Escudero: I like this rally very much because it is different every day but if the weather is wet then it is very difficult. It will be important for me to be quick from the start because I haven't driven in the WRC since Monte Carlo and I don't know the speed of my opponents but I hope the gap is very close!

Janne Touhino/Mikko Markkula: I'm looking forward to the rally very much because I always like driving the Fabia WRC 05. I am hoping that the weather is good and my aim is to drive quickly, safely and be at the finish.

Mitsubishi

The OMV ADAC Rallye in Germany could prove to be one of the trickiest events this season but the Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports WRC team is well prepared for conditions on the first true asphalt rally of the season. Registered crews Harri Rovanperä/Risto Pietiläinen and "Gigi" Galli/Guido d'Amore ran the Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05s for the final time this morning and the two crews are set for whatever conditions lay ahead.

Harri Rovanpera/Risto Pietilainen: Shakedown was fairly standard for us, just testing different settings with the roll bars and suspension", commented Harri. "This is only my second asphalt event with Pirelli, but I feel quite comfortable with the situation. The biggest downside is that this is like a new rally for me. I have completely new pace notes and while I don't feel it's a big disadvantage, I obviously have very limited memory of the stages. All in all it's going to be a difficult weekend but we'll be trying as hard as ever.

Gigi Galli/Guido D'Amore: "The most difficult thing about this rally is the weather and every where you turn there are different situations - narrow roads, mud, cuts, junctions; something different all the time", said Gigi. "I plan to have a smooth rally and see if we can do something good for the team. This is only my second event on Tarmac with Mitsubishi (last event being Monte-Carlo 2004) and now it is a completely different car. It won't be easy for us".

-rallyenewsletter-

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Series WRC
Teams Citroën World Rally Team