Rallye Deutschland: Hyundai preview

Hyundai gears up for German asphalt After a string of rough gravel rallies, Hyundai World Rally Team crews Freddy Loix/Sven Smeets and Armin Schwarz/Manfred Hiemer prepare to head to the tarmac of northern Europe for the eighth round of the ...

Hyundai gears up for German asphalt

After a string of rough gravel rallies, Hyundai World Rally Team crews Freddy Loix/Sven Smeets and Armin Schwarz/Manfred Hiemer prepare to head to the tarmac of northern Europe for the eighth round of the FIA World Rally Championship, Rallye Deutschland running from 25-27 July. Manfred Stohl/Ilka Minor will be driving the third Hyundai nominated for manufacturer points.

The scorching, boulder-strewn conditions of Greece and Cyprus will be replaced with a variety of asphalt surfaces that take crews through the dreamy vineyards of the Mosel region, the countryside of Saarland and the challenging military tank-withstanding ground of Baumholder region. Contrasting surfaces are unusual in the current championship schedule and will demand more of the team engineers and technicians as suspension set-ups will need to be modified for each group of varying stages.

The lead Hyundai crews will be hoping for a better result than last year as both were struck by misfortune on the event's inaugural running. Home favourites Armin Schwarz and co-driver Manfred Hiemer have firmly put their accident of last year behind them and are looking forward to heading back to familiar climbs. "To be honest I don't think about the accident and I will approach this rally just like all the others," explained Armin, who reached his 40th birthday today. "We were quite competitive last year on leg one when it was dry but a lot has changed on the route for this year so we will have to see. Even when this rally was part of the German championship we didn't have much luck so I hope our luck changes this year."

Thinking about the conditions of the stages, Armin continued: "The stages in the vineyards are not easy and you never know what kind of conditions there will be. If there is a lot of dirt on the road then there is not much grip. The Baumhlder stages have mud or clay on them as the whole area is more clay rather than earth. In the German Championship is was always very dusty or wet and slippery."

Freddy and co-driver Sven Smeets, like their German team-mates, set competitive stage times on the opening day of the rally and although Freddy admits it is not his favourite event in the championship, he likes some of the roads they have to drive. "Many of the stages in Germany -- in Saarland area and the vineyards - are similar to ones I have driven in Ypres in Belgium, so I know how to drive those type of roads -- the driving style uses late braking and you have to make sure you don't lose time in the hairpins and T-junctions to get a clean run," explained the 32-year-old Belgian.

He continued: "The stages in Baumholder are very specialised. Unfortunately I have never done them as we retired before them last year. The roads are not really tarmac -- I think Manfred last year described them as an 'asphalt safari' which seems to be a good description as they are almost too rough for a tarmac rally. Give me the vineyards any day -- they're more natural, more like tarmac driving and I enjoy them."

Following an excellent result on their debut outing in Greece last month, Austrian OMV-sponsored crew Manfred Stohl and co-driver Ilka Minor will also be nominated to score manufacturer points for the Korean marque on their second outing in the Hyundai Accent WRC".

Key Issues

Manfred Hiemer, co-driver to Armin Schwarz, explains some of the key issues for Rallye Deutschland: "The rally has changed a lot since last year. Before, the different areas were split over different days but this year we have to do vineyard and Baumholder stages on the same day. SS1 and 2 for example are in the vineyards and are followed immediately by SS3 and 4 on the military range so we will have to adjust the suspension which will create a bit more work for the boys in service.

"Some of the stages are used in the reverse direction this year as well so they will effectively be new to us -- SS11 for example is SS3/4 from last year joined together and in the opposite direction.

"The vineyard stages look narrow and slow but they are actually incredibly fast. The vines create a tunnel effect and you can't see very far. It's very twisty with very narrow hairpins and sometimes the asphalt can be very slippery whether wet or dry.

"In comparison, the Baumholder stages are very different in the dry and the wet. The asphalt isn't normal asphalt -- it's more like concrete and it's very rough as it's used for tanks. There are small ruts about half a centimetre high which just eats your tyres so that will be something to watch out for. SS10 and 11 make over 50km in total so you will really have to watch your tyre wear there for example.

"If it's dry and not dirty it can be fast in the high speed bends as you get a lot of grip in the corners. If it's dirty there will be a lot of mud and it will be very slippery. As this is a tarmac event you have to use tarmac tyres - when it was part of German Championship we used to be able to use gravel tyres for these kind of stages.

"The rally also uses the some Saarland stages which are very fast. They are more in the open countryside and have less bends than in the Vineyards or Baumholder region and are a bit like the roads of Ypres in Belgium.

"My favourite stages are those in the vineyards as we don't have roads like them anywhere else in the Championship but to be honest I like this rally in general -- let's hope it's better for us this year!"

The Rally

Leg one covers 117 competitive kilometres over a mixture of vineyard and Baumholder stages and finishes with a run of the spectator-friendly superspecial stage. The second leg is by far the longest covering nine stages over 169 timed kilometres and crews tackle speed tests of the Saarland and Baumholder regions, with another run of the St.Wendel superspecial stage. A repeated trio of stages in the vineyards and Saarland region on the third and final leg take place before crews reach the Trier finish ramp at 15:50hrs. Trier is GMT+2hrs.

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Series WRC
Drivers Freddy Loix , Armin Schwarz , Manfred Stohl , Sven Smeets , Ilka Minor