Rallye Deutschland (D), August 14-17 2008, round 10/15 Suzuki gets back to asphalt The Rallye Deutschland sees Suzuki get back to asphalt rallying for the first time this year since Monte Carlo. Nonetheless, the asphalt of Germany is far from...
Rallye Deutschland (D), August 14-17 2008, round 10/15
Suzuki gets back to asphalt
The Rallye Deutschland sees Suzuki get back to asphalt rallying for the first time this year since Monte Carlo. Nonetheless, the asphalt of Germany is far from typical of this surface, containing an extraordinary variety of driving conditions. The rally is actually made up of three old national events rolled into one, and this is evident in the disparate nature of all three days.
The opening day takes place over the famous vineyard roads near the Mosel River, in an area that is famous for producing some of Germany's most celebrated wines. These roads are narrow and slippery with grape mulch, consisting of long straights followed by tight hairpin bends. Accurate pace notes - and an effective handbrake technique - are the key ingredients to success here.
The second day is the most fearsome of the lot, taking place over the Baumholder military ranges. This includes the famous Panzerplatte stages, run on concrete roads that were originally used for testing tanks. There are several hazards to watch out for: the concrete roads become very slippery when wet and they also have sharp square edges, which can easily cause punctures. No mistakes go unpunished, as the stages are lined with hinkelsteins: huge blocks of concrete that were once designed to stop tanks going off. They do an equally effective, if brutal, job of stopping errant World Rally Cars.
The third and last day is much more like a conventional asphalt rally. The sweeping roads are smooth, fast and flowing - providing a thrilling finale to three days of non-stop action.
The rally is based in the university town of Trier: Germany's oldest city, just across the border from Luxembourg. Trier pre-dates the Roman era, and the start and finish of the rally - as well as the hugely popular spectator superspecial - is held near the stunning Porta Nigra: the original Roman gateway to the city. In total the rally comprises 19 special stages over 353.75 competitive kilometres. For more information: www.rallye-deutschland.de
Car news - Suzuki SX4 WRC n.11 (Gardemeister) and n.12 (Andersson):
Germany will be the first asphalt outing for the latest development parts on the SX4 WRC, which made their debut in Finland and helped Toni Gardemeister to a solid points finish. In fact, a number of components have changed on the car since it was last seen on asphalt back in January - designed to improve both speed and reliability.
In particular, the bodyshell is lighter with improved power to the engine. A lot of work has been done to refine suspension and differential settings, in order to provide better handling, ride, traction and grip. Finally, there is increased cooling and underbody protection, which is primarily designed to help the car's level of reliability.
However, as this is only the 10th rally of the SX4 WRC's first full season a lot of work remains to be done. The sheer mixture of conditions in Germany is sure to accelerate the learning curve of the drivers and team as the event progresses.
Both Toni Gardemeister and P-G Andersson have previous experience of the Rallye Deutschland, although Andersson has only ever driven it once as part of the Junior World Rally Championship. Gardemeister, by contrast, knows the rally well, having been there six times. His best result was fourth in 2006, and he was seventh overall on his last participation in 2007. Having scored one driver point on his most recent outing in Finland - reputed to be the fastest and most challenging rally of them all - he is feeling upbeat heading into Germany.
"I like asphalt driving, although Germany is far from typical asphalt," Gardemeister said. "In many ways it is a bit like Monte Carlo, as the amount of grip you get from the roads is always changing and you never know what the weather conditions are going to be like. I'm not really sure why, but these kind of conditions tend to suit me. Although there are some fast bits, this is not a rally that is all about maximum power: instead you need to have a car that is quite good in every area and most of all you need to stay out of trouble. If we can avoid problems this rally could be a very good opportunity for us."
P-G Andersson also enjoys driving on asphalt, although he has a long way to go to match the experience of his team mate. The young Swede previously finished fourth in the Junior class in Germany three years ago, at the wheel of a Suzuki Swift S1600. "I think it will be a lot of fun," he said. "I don't know the roads so well, but we've already seen many times this year that we are capable of finishing in the points even on rallies that are new to us, providing we have a clean run. My aim is to accumulate more asphalt experience and finish, but I hope we can get points as well."
Less than two weeks after the rapid gravel of Rally Finland, Suzuki now sets its sights firmly on asphalt - with three asphalt rallies coming up in the last six events of the season. With much of the development work having taken place on gravel so far, the learning process effectively starts all over again for the drivers and the engineers. Nonetheless, the Suzuki World Rally Team has already shown that it can adapt itself quickly to new surfaces, putting the SX4 WRC in a strong position to set convincing stage times in only its first full year of competition.
Nobuhiro 'Monster' Tajima, the Principal of the Suzuki World Rally Team, commented: "Germany is maybe the most difficult asphalt rally of them all, and we come to it having not competed on this surface for seven months. It is also the first time in Germany for the SX4 WRC, so we will use the rally to fine-tune the set-up of the car to its very specific demands. There is a lot to learn, but historically this is a rally where it is possible to do well by staying out of trouble. My advice to the drivers is to avoid any unnecessary risks; in the meantime we will continue our work in trying to improve the performance and the reliability of the SX4 WRC."