The Hyundai World Rally Team crews made a confident start to Rallye Deutschland, the eighth round of the 2003 FIA World Rally Championship, with Freddy Loix/Sven Smeets and Armin Schwarz/Manfred Hiemer bringing their Hyundai Accent WRC"s to ...
The Hyundai World Rally Team crews made a confident start to Rallye Deutschland, the eighth round of the 2003 FIA World Rally Championship, with Freddy Loix/Sven Smeets and Armin Schwarz/Manfred Hiemer bringing their Hyundai Accent WRC"s to overnight parc ferme in 13th and 15th positions overall. Hyundai privateer Manfred Stohl, also nominated to score manufacturer points for the Korean marque, lies in 25th position.
Considered one of the more tricky asphalt events, this year the stages of Rallye Deutschland are mixed with crews having to tackle very differing surfaces in one day. The first day of the rally started in the vineyards on the banks of the Mosel, renowned for being very twisty and narrow, followed by a duo of stages in the Baumholder region. Functioning as a tank testing ground for the military, the road surface in Baumholder is more like concrete than tarmac, often with a sprinkling of slippery clay dirt and lined with huge concrete boulders known as Hinkelsteine with potential for disaster should any driver make acquaintance with one.
With strong following in his homeland, Hyundai's Belgian crew Freddy Loix and co-driver Sven Smeets were not short of supporters on their nearest world championship event. Unfortunately the pair had an oil leak to contend with for the opening stages of the day, as Freddy explained: "In testing we were getting an oil surge in the engine so to protect it we overfilled with oil this morning. The excess went into the catch tank but then that filled up and in the longer faster corners when we braked it came out over the top and splashed onto the rear tyres."
Team mechanics solved the problem before the penultimate group of stages and as a result Freddy was able to drive with more conviction. "My Accent is now driving as I expected it would and even though the roads are dirtier it felt so much safer. Our times are not great but now the car is handling as I expect I can push nearer to the limit," commented the 32-year-old Belgian. "I think rain is forecast for tomorrow which might help us as our car likes trickier conditions and I quite enjoy the technical aspect of driving in the damp."
Local favourites Armin Schwarz and Manfred Hiemer had a slightly slower day and despite a cautious run in the morning on the dirty roads of the vineyards, a damaged wastegate caused the turbo to operate ineffectively on the fourth timed test. Armin explained: "We lost the turbo 8km into the 34km stage and I estimate it cost us about 30 seconds. Once the team had changed it we drove much more consistently but to be honest I'm not pushing too much because there is so much gravel on the roads and in some places it's quite a problem. If it rains tomorrow I'm really not sure what to expect as last year the rain tyres didn't work for us!"
Two spins on the opening two stages of the day meant Manfred Stohl and co-driver Ilka Minor had difficulty settling into a rhythm on their second Accent WRC" outing. The OMV-sponsored Hyundai privateer is nominated by the Hyundai World Rally Team to score manufacturer points but despite a good pre-event test, the Austrian crew were struggling a bit with slight lack of traction. "It felt better in SS5 but I wasn't that pleased with my time as I thought it would have been quicker. We're still having problems with the balance and traction and I'm not sure what it is but it's affecting my confidence in the stages. We're overlaying the afternoon's data with the morning's run of the vineyard stages and if we can find a solution I'm really looking forward to pushing hard tomorrow. Now I feel like I have some time I really need to make up."
Justin Dale and co-driver Andrew Bargery in an MSD-run Hyundai Accent WRC", are contesting their first WRC event on asphalt and ended the day in a respectable 20th position. The British pair made a hesitant start but quickly picked up a rhythm and a trouble-free run permitted the crew a commendable performance. Ford young-gun Latvala is also contesting his first WRC tarmac event and Dale's stage times have kept him ahead of the Finnish crew. His performance has been competitive with Ford driver Mikko Hirvonen and Anthony Warmbold, who are both on their second world championship asphalt rally.
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As expected, the numerous junctions on this rally caused problems and Petter Solberg, Tommi Makinen (both Subaru), Carlos Sainz and Colin McRae (both Citroën) overshot them on occasion. The change of surfaces between that of the vineyards versus Baumholder also resulted in a number of wrong tyre choices -- both Sebastien Loeb (Citroën) and Francois Duval (Ford) complained of unsuitable tyres for the second group of stages and Duval dropped time and third place with a spin in SS4. Ford's Markko Martin lost his lead after losing fifth and sixth gear on the fifth test which was compounded by a 10sec penalty he picked up making roadside repairs before the next test. Tommi Makinen (Subaru) retired only 1.5km from the penultimate service with no charge to the battery after a power steering drivebelt problem and Didier Auriol saw the engine of his recently launched Skoda Fabia die in the final 6.24km superspecial stage at St. Wendel.
Richard Burns (Peugeot) held the lead for the best part of the day and lies 9.4 seconds ahead of team-mate Marcus Gronholm in second with Citroën youngster Sebastien Loeb only nine tenths of a second adrift in third. Colin McRae (Citroën) and Gilles Panizzi (Peugeot) hold fourth and fifth respectively.
The second leg is by far the longest covering nine stages over 169.38 timed kilometres and crews tackle speed tests of the Saarland and Baumholder regions, with another run of the St.Wendel superspecial stage to end the day. With a start at 06:30hrs, competitors face a long day as the return to parc ferme is not until 20:16hrs.