100% finish rate and Loix point for Hyundai The Hyundai World Rally Team crews of Freddy Loix/Sven Smeets and Armin Schwarz/Manfred Hiemer completed a challenging Rallye Deutschland to bring their Hyundai Accent WRC"s to the finish ramp in 11th...
100% finish rate and Loix point for Hyundai
The Hyundai World Rally Team crews of Freddy Loix/Sven Smeets and Armin Schwarz/Manfred Hiemer completed a challenging Rallye Deutschland to bring their Hyundai Accent WRC"s to the finish ramp in 11th and 12th positions respectively. The team's third nominated crew Manfred Stohl and Ilka Minor finished in 18th place on only their second outing in the Accent and privateers Justin Dale and Andrew Bargery's 28th place on their first tarmac rally in a four-wheel drive car gave Hyundai a full team finish.
Although Rallye Deutschland is an asphalt rally it features three different styles of roads; twisty and narrow tunnel-like roads in the vineyards, the more open and straighter roads of the Saarland region, much like roads of Belgium's Ypres Rally and the abrasive, rocky and dirty concrete stages of Baumholder military base. Each requires a different approach in the best of conditions but unpredictable weather made progress tricky and crews were relying heavily on information from their gravel and weather crews before making decisions regarding the most suitable tyres for each group of stages. Hyundai crews Loix and Schwarz had no problems with tyre choice throughout the event however with each complimenting the performance their Michelins were giving them.
Freddy and co-driver Sven had a good rally despite a couple of issues to contend with. An oil leak on leg one of the event followed by a sticking throttle on the second day were both fixed by Hyundai technicians and the Belgian crew had a good run after but it was evident that while Freddy was happy with the set-up of his Accent WRC", the car was clearly illustrating a preference to the damper conditions.
Freddy commented: "This hasn't been an easy rally but I feel good about what we have achieved here. Last year we didn't even have the chance to get to know the event. Now I can say that I'm not keen on Baumholder and I really like the rest!"
The Belgians maintained a steady pace throughout to hold onto their position and after a rally that has kept all competitors on their toes, 32-year-old Loix is happy to take away a point for Hyundai. He added: "The car has continued to be okay in the wet and damp conditions and that has allowed us to set some good times but we still have a lot of work to do in the dry. We are still down on power compared to the top teams and until we can deal with that we have to hope for rain."
"On a personal level," he continued, "I am very pleased, firstly to get to the finish as this is the first rally I have finished since Turkey and I didn't count that as a serious finish. But more importantly to be able to get a point for Hyundai which is very important to keep the programme moving forward."
Local hero Armin Schwarz and his Bavarian co-driver Manfred Hiemer were also encouraged by their result, feeling that this event has held an undue amount of bad luck for them in the past. Like most competitors they didn't escape unaffected. The pair dropped some time on the first day with a damaged wastegate and lost time on leg three as a result of a loose turbo pipe. But progress was difficult due to the amount of dirt on the roads and the crew erred on the side of caution earlier on to prevent risk of damage, especially on the Baumholder stages with looming hinkelsteine - the huge concrete roadside boulders.
Leg two saw the pair set more competitive stage times despite being hindered by a faulty gearbox earlier in the day and the final group of stages saw a second and fifth fastest stage time set by the German's Accent WRC".
"I wasn't worried about not finishing this rally but I did want to keep my position. The problem with the turbo today was just that the turbo pipe came loose but it was just in a difficult position to fix. I knew Hirvonen was closing in fast so it was vital we made some repairs," explained Armin about the final day of the rally.
Like his team-mate, Armin commented that the Accent WRC" was performing particularly well in the damp conditions. "We are on a level with everyone in the wet but we haven't made enough progress to allow us to challenge throughout an asphalt event when the weather conditions vary so much. We knew last year in Corsica that we were good when the conditions were damp but other teams have made big improvements in the power of their engines and that handicaps us if it's dry," said Armin thinking ahead.
He added in conclusion: "The last three times we have done this rally we haven't finished. Twice we had mechanical problems and I had my accident last year. So top of my list was a change of luck and to finish and we got that. It was important for me but it was just as important for all our home fans who have supported us so enthusiastically and for Hyundai here in Germany who have become keen supporters of Manfred and I and the programme."
Hyundai's third nominated crew, OMV-supported Manfred Stohl and Ilka Minor had a steady drive throughout but Stohl complained of not being able to find a rhythm and was unable to drive confidently enough to be as competitive as he would like to have been. "I am pleased now I have finished two out of two events in the Hyundai but I know if I hadn't had a few difficulties we could have been higher. I enjoyed the bad conditions we had and the car is very capable but unfortunately we just weren't able to maintain our performance throughout event. So now I look forward to the next rally and I'll hope to keep my record going."
Sony-sponsored British duo Justin Dale and Andrew Bargery were learning over every kilometre of Rallye Deutschland and were on course for a great result reaching 18th position by the middle of leg two. Unfortunately a gearbox niggle hindered progress and forced them down the order to 34th but with rejuvenated determination, the pair fought hard and worked their way back to finish in a well-deserved 28th position, on their first four-wheel drive asphalt rally.
"I've got really mixed emotions. It's great to get to the finish because when the gearbox went I didn't think we'd make it. I really enjoyed day one because the car allowed me to do much better than I thought was possible," explained Justin. "It would have been very easy to give up on the second day but after retiring in Cyprus, getting to the finish was vital and if I'm coming back next year I need to know what this event is like. We slipped up in Baumholder like a lot of people but I'm sure if we did it again we could get a lot more out of the car and ourselves."
News from our rivals
The final leg saw only one leading retirement as Roman Kresta (Peugeot) stopped before the second run of Moselwein 2 (SS21) with a broken brake disc. Markko Martin (Ford) was plagued with differential problems but the Estonion ploughed on to maintain his fifth position and team-mate Francois Duval lost his private battle with Carlos Sainz (Citroën) after a stall and a spin effectively ensured the Spaniard sixth place. Sebastien Loeb (Citroën) held onto his lead but only finished 3.6 seconds ahead of Marcus Gronholm (Peugeot) and Richard Burns (also Peugeot) finished third.
The ninth round of the 2003 FIA World Rally Championship takes crews to Europe's northern climbs for a return to more traditional gravel roads of Neste Rally Finland, running from 8-10 August, based out of Jyvaskyla.