Following a two-month summer break, the WRC returns to competitive action on this week's Rallye Deutschland (10 - 13 August). The German round of the FIA World Rally Championship marks the beginning of the second half of the 16-round series, but...
Following a two-month summer break, the WRC returns to competitive action on this week's Rallye Deutschland (10 - 13 August). The German round of the FIA World Rally Championship marks the beginning of the second half of the 16-round series, but also brings the asphalt sector of the campaign to a close as the rally is the last of four sealed surface events.
Kronos Total Citroen
For Kronos Racing, this event represents the year's shortest journey. Thelories transporting the three Citroens have less than three hundred kilometres to cover between Naninne and the single service park of Bostalsee. As usual, the two 2006 passive differentials Xsaras are those entitled to score 'Manufacturers' points, while the third one keeps its 2005 specifications. The news on this event come from the fact team-mates Dani Sordo/Marc Marti and Xevi Pons/Carlos Del Barrio have swapped roles in theManufacturers points' quest: Dani and Marc inherit the number 2 Xsara while Xevi and Carlos now play the role of the free-riders.
Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena: "The rally route has remained quite stable over the years since it first counted for the World championship. In consequence, we determine our set-up on the Xsara WRC about the same way from one year to another. We fine-tune it progressively with a first sequence in the Vosges region, similar to the Saarland stages, and with a German test with typical sections of the Mosel vineyards. And we still found some interesting things! This time the pre-event tests were a bit special : first because it was the last one of the Xsara WRC on tarmac and secondly because we also had the C4 with us. We had a great time."
Dani Sordo/Marc Marti: No quote available at time of going to press.
Xavier Pons/Carlos Del Barrio: "Usually the Spaniards perform quite well in Germany. Our 'asphalt' background and the good level of the Spanish championship give us a good basis to tackle this tricky terrain. In 2004, we achieved a good result considering the tight fight amongst several good drivers in the 'Production' category. In 2005, I competed for the first time on tarmac with the Xsara in 'Deutschland'. We improved our pace throughout the event without making mistakes."
On Monday the OMV Peugeot Norway World Rally Team got into the mood for the OMV ADAC Rallye, the ninth run to the FIA World Rally Championship. 120 kilometres of testing were completed in the vinyards near the special stage "Bosenberg". Afterwards the OMV Team Stohl/Minor was full of confidence. >From Friday on the new insights will be put to the test. And the 34-year-old Austrian can focus completely on the driver WRC-ranking since the OMV Peugeot Norway WRT will only compete with one car in Germany and therefore cannot score in the manufacture ranking.
Manfred Stohl/Ilka Minor: "During this season I've already proven that I can score on tarmac. And last year in Germany we were extremely close to Sebastien Loeb on several special stages. Furthermore, the fight will be even tighter if rain should set in."
This ninth round can be as unpredictable and demanding as January's opening asphalt encounter in Monte Carlo, which brought a debut victory for Gronholm in a Ford Focus RS World Rally Car. The roads could not be more different than the French Alpine mountain passes, but the changing nature of the speed tests and the ever-present threat of rain in the region could make conditions tricky for the Finn and fellow countryman Hirvonen.
Marcus Gronholm/Timo Rautiainen: "I've been close to winning previously. It won't be easy because Loeb has won four times in Germany and he is good in the slippery conditions that we often find there. It would be good to beat him and shake him up a little. The Focus RS is good enough and now it is up to the driver. We tested in two locations, on Baumholder and in the vineyards, and I have good experience from that."
Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen: "I think there are many rallies in the second half of the season where I can fight for a podium. BP-Ford is second and still has a chance of the manufacturers' title so I need to score as many points as possible and that will be my target for the rest of the year. I have a chance of a top three in Germany but it won't be easy."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford
The Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team this weekend tackles OMV ADAC Rallye Deutschland as the first event back in action since the BP Ultimate Acropolis Rally at the start of June and driver Matthew Wilson can't wait to get back behind the wheel of his Ford Focus RS WRC05 on the diverse tarmac challenge that the German event presents.
Matthew Wilson/Michael Orr: "It's one of the most difficult rallies of the year and I'm glad I came out in July with the BP Ford World Rally Team when they tested as I spent time sat next to Marcus Gronholm. I did the recce for the event last year as well and it's very challenging with the vineyards and the military roads. There are a lot of junctions and a lot of surface changes and I don't want to think what happens if you hit a hinkelstein!"
Jari Mati Latvala says:"I think that this can be a difficult rally because of the weather. I've done it three times before and I like it a lot, but it needs a lot of concentration. You have to be careful as the roads change a lot. On the first and third days you can cut the corners a lot which means there can be a lot of gravel and mud on the road which makes it tricky if it's wet. On the military roads you cannot cut so much, especially with the hinkelstein. The grip is not so good on the military roads, it feels more like a Finnish gravel rally."
Entries: Petter Solberg (co-driven by Phil Mills) and Stephane Sarrazin (co-driven by Stephane Prevot) will drive a Subaru Impreza WRC2006 each, while Chris Atkinson (co-driven by Glenn Macneall) will drive a Subaru Australia-entered Impreza WRC2005. Petter Solberg has competed in Germany four times before. Last year the Norwegian achieved his highest finish in the event with seventh overall. Stephane Sarrazin made his WRC debut in Germany in 2004 at the wheel of a privately-entered Subaru Impreza and finished a remarkable ninth. Last year the Frenchman claimed eighth position.
Petter Solberg/Phil Mills: 'This year we've not had such good results on asphalt so the most important thing in Germany will be to progress from our previous form. We had two days of testing in Germany at the end of July and we did find some improvements, which will be very important for us. I do enjoy the rally in itself, despite not having such a great history in the event. It's a reasonably difficult rally for a driver as each Leg has a different character with a different type of asphalt and all of the roads are very dirty and slippery. Saturday's military stages are particularly tough.'
Stephane Sarrazin/Denis Giraudet: 'I made my WRC debut in Rally Germany 2004 so I've got a good feeling about this event. It's a great tarmac event as grip is low, the surface is slippery and the stages are difficult so you've really got to concentrate. I particularly enjoy the second day's Baumholder roads as they're very challenging to drive. Last year we were very quick and it would be a good result if we could finish in the top five this year.'
Chris Atkinson/Glen MacNeall: 'Germany was my first-ever asphalt event in 2005, but this year I'm going back there with a lot more experience. I've got another two Tour de Corse and Rally Catalunyas under my belt, plus Monte Carlo and Ireland. Competing in the Nurburg 24 hours helped too - over a 25km lap, you have lots of opportunity to get the right racing line and think about the set-up. Unfortunately, I've not had an opportunity to do a tarmac test before Germany this year so instead I've been concentrating on fitness, training and relaxing. Our goal for Germany has got to be a good finish, hopefully in the points.'
Red Bull-Skoda Team
Red Bull Skoda can look forward to the final four WRC events of this season rather optimistically. The team has prepared very thoroughly for the OMV ADAC Rally Germany, testing very extensively on tarmac in Austria and in Germany. The experience gained in these tests should make it possible to increase the points tally in the World Rally Championship.
Mattias Ekstrom/Jonas Andersson: "I'm well prepared after testing, I now feel comfortable with the car. I'll try to drive fast and make as few mistakes as possible. Then a fair result should be achievable. A WRC point would obviously be a dream."
Andreas Aigner/Timo Gottschalk: "It's the first rally I already know. This certainly won't be a disadvantage. Since I'm very ambitious I'd like to reduce the gap to the front runners to one second per kilometre. This will be my third tarmac event in a WRC. For me it's quite surprising that I've been more successful on this surface than on gravel. In Germany I prefer the narrow passages through the vineyards to, say, the 'Panzerplatte' which is very difficult to master."