WRC

Rally Deutschland: Subaru preview

The event Just two weeks after a flat-out blast through the forests of Finland, the Subaru World Rally Team is heading south to an equally tough, but vastly different challenge. Nineteen stages will take competitors along 356.27 competitive ...

The event

Just two weeks after a flat-out blast through the forests of Finland, the Subaru World Rally Team is heading south to an equally tough, but vastly different challenge. Nineteen stages will take competitors along 356.27 competitive kilometers of asphalt roads in the Mosel region in western Germany.

This is both the first asphalt rally for the Impreza WRC2007, and the car's first time on asphalt using BFGoodrich tyres. During the WRC's summer break, the Subaru World Rally Team carried out test and development work to hone the set-up of the car on asphalt, and the results were encouraging.

Germany brings a whole host of unique challenges, as the stages are so varied in comparison to each other and indeed to anything else in the championship. They don't flow as they do on a traditional asphalt rally, which makes it hard for drivers to get into a rhythm. Also, the road surface doesn't give the same degree of feedback, which makes judging grip levels and choosing braking points very tough for the drivers. In addition, some of the stages are flanked with huge, unforgiving concrete kerbstones, known locally as 'hinkelsteins', so any mistake will be severely punished.

With the rally taking place at the height of the German summer, the weather is expected to be hot and sunny, although the proximity of the Eifel and Hunsruck mountains means there is always the prospect of rain showers. Wet weather dramatically changes the characteristics and grip levels of the roads and crews can be faced with significant variations between stages. Whilst grippy when dry, the smooth surfaces hold water so become very greasy when wet. Most stage-start sections are very fast, so coupled with the low tyre temperatures for the first few corners, changeable surface conditions can be incredibly tricky.

The German event is easily accessible from many countries, so it's no surprise that fans from worldwide make the trip. This year the location of the event's service park has moved from Bostalsee to the Messepark Trier, which was last used when the event had two service locations back in 2002. The move has been prompted by the inclusion of a new superspecial stage around the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Porta Nigra, in the centre of Germany's oldest town. The superspecial, which has been named 'Circus Maximus Trier', will use a novel format, with up to four cars competing on the course at one time.

The rest of the rally route has been tweaked only slightly since 2006. Legs one and three will be based near Trier, while the second will include two well-known stages on the smooth, fast roads around Saarland, and the wide, dirty asphalt of the infamous Baumholder military ranges.

Entries

The Subaru World Rally Team has entered three Impreza WRC2007s for the tenth round of the World Rally Championship. The pairing of Petter Solberg and Phil Mills will drive car number seven, Chris Atkinson/Stephane Prevot will drive car number eight, while Xevi Pons/Xavier Amigo will be in car number twenty. Petter and Phil have contested the event since 2002. Chris scored an 11th overall in 2005 and was eighth last year, but this time will be his first Rallye Deutschland sitting alongside Prevot. This will also be Xevi Pons' first competitive outing on asphalt with his new car, although he has plenty of experience of the rally having competed since 2004.

Team quotes

Richard Taylor, Subaru World Rally Team managing director:

"As we prepare for Rallye Deutschland next week, we are confident of a competitive performance from all three of our cars following the highly encouraging asphalt test we conducted in Germany in July. Petter, Chris and Xevi were able to see real progress in the Subaru Impreza WRC2007's speed on the sealed surface roads and are looking forward to the first of the four sealed surface events in the second half of the season. Although the competition in Germany is sure to be intense our objective is to bring all three cars to the finish in points-scoring positions."

Paul Howarth, Subaru World Rally Team operations director:

"Germany is our second event using BFGoodrich tyres on asphalt. We and the drivers have more experience of the tyres following our tests which should work to our advantage. The weather is likely to play a massive role in the rally as the region is prone to inclement weather. One of the biggest challenges is ensuring we gather the correct information to enable the drivers and engineers to select the right tyre. Germany is not a place where you play with setup much as on the flat and smooth roads, tyre choice in itself can win or lose the rally. We've done a lot of work with the drivers in the UK and during the test in Germany to determine a base setup for the new car which we're happy with."

Petter Solberg:

"Germany is a good rally and one that demands utmost respect. Everyone will remember my accident in 2004: that just shows how unforgiving the rally is with hinkelsteins lining sections of the route. The cars are working well on asphalt at the moment and the test at the beginning of last month was encouraging. I've been doing some go-karting in Norway, using it as a little bit of training and trying to get a better feeling of driving on asphalt before Germany. The test last month went well; I think it was the best sealed surface test ever for us so I'm feeling good about it and really looking forward to it."

Chris Atkinson:

"I hope we can take another step forward in our performance in Germany. All going well I think that the car will be better than it was in Monte Carlo. Germany is heavily reliant on the gravel crews, and stages can change dramatically from one pass to the second. It depends on your start position as well; it's definitely an advantage to be higher up the road order for the first stages of each loop. Dirt and mud will get pulled onto the roads, especially in the vineyards. Tyre choice for each stage is critical, and even with a good decision you never know. Everyone could be out there on slicks and it suddenly starts to pour down; it's just the nature of the rally. But I'm optimistic of our chances and think that top four is realistic, certainly a higher finish than we achieved in Monte Carlo. It's a good entry and there are a lot of good privateers so it won't be easy though."

Xavier Pons:

"I like Germany as a rally but it is certainly not easy. It's made more difficult because of the weather which is very unpredictable and can change very quickly. Sometimes it is raining, sometimes it is sunny and it makes it very hard to choose the right tyre. Also, it can be dry in service but by the time you get to stage it can have changed again. You need to make a good strategic decision with tyres to have any chance, so we are reliant on the information from the team and gravel crews. There are not a lot of long corners; instead it's very short and fast which is great for us and is fun to watch. It is important for me to finish my first rally for Subaru on asphalt and for sure I am hoping for a top eight finish and some points again."

-credit: swrt

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Petter Solberg , Stéphane Prévot , Xavier Amigo , Xavier Pons , Chris Atkinson , Richard Taylor , Paul Howarth