For the first time since 2000, Marlboro Mitsubishi Ralliart ventures into the unknown when it contests the 21st Rallye Deutschland, the 10th round of the FIA World Rally Championship. This is the first year the German event has qualified for the...
For the first time since 2000, Marlboro Mitsubishi Ralliart ventures into the unknown when it contests the 21st Rallye Deutschland, the 10th round of the FIA World Rally Championship. This is the first year the German event has qualified for the World Championship and, as a consequence, very few of the teams and drivers have experience of the asphalt roads in the southwest of the country. Regular Mitsubishi drivers François Delecour/Daniel Grataloup did however contest the event last year, gaining vital knowledge during its observation year. Team-mates Alister McRae/David Senior will join them in the second Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution WRC2, the second generation World Rally Car that showed an improved performance in its debut outing in Finland.
Rallye Deutschland is based in Germany's oldest town, the Roman city of Trier on the River Mosel - a region renowned for its white wine - just east of the Luxembourg border and 240 kilometres to the southwest of Frankfurt. And, according to Marlboro Mitsubishi Ralliart driver François Delecour, it is three different rallies in one!
"The first leg is very strange, not so interesting I think, with many hairpins and many straight sections on narrow roads," recollects François. "It's a hard leg, difficult for the brakes, but the second and third days are much better, more interesting. The roads in the second leg are on military land, very slippy, mostly wide with nice fast places and some areas that are very very rough with big holes and jumps ^Ö great for the spectators. This is a nice leg. The third one reminds me of French Championship events. The roads are so, so, so fast, narrow and with average speeds of around 120 kph. It's not so easy and very hard on the braking, particularly if it's raining and there's not so much grip.
"Last year we finished third with the Ford Focus after dropping back with punctures. The event is not so easy for tyres and there may be a lot of punctures again, especially in the second day. We will see, but hopefully our knowledge will help us and the team this year," added the Frenchman.
Team-mates Alister McRae and David Senior have never competed in Germany, however a four-day test scheduled by the team will undoubtedly assist the Britons as they fight for points in the first of two consecutive asphalt events.
"I've never been rallying in Germany before," said Alister. "I'm doing two days of testing before the event and am looking forward to trying the WRC2 on asphalt. The feedback from François has been very positive; on gravel the car is more progressive and stable in all conditions, and he feels the car has made more progress on tarmac than gravel. We saw in Finland that it had definitely made a step forward, so hopefully we can carry that forward into Germany. I gather the three legs have very distinct and different characteristics, and François and I will be sitting down to discuss it beforehand so I can get more of an understanding of the nature of the event."
Commenting on the challenge ahead, Marlboro Mitsubishi Ralliart team manager Derek Dauncey said: "In the run-up to the event we have a four-day test scheduled on roads very close to those used in the event to recreate, as much as possible, the rally conditions. Each leg is very different, including broken roads and those in military areas. We feel that the experience and knowledge François and Daniel gained last year should be a definite advantage to us as they are one of just a handful of works' crews to have contested the event previously. One thing we know is that to avoid punctures it'll be crucial not to cut corners. The roads appear to have very square curbs to them, which can be disastrous for tyres. The roads in the military area, which are obviously not used by public traffic, were also very dusty last year so it'll be interesting to see how they clean as the event progresses."
Rallye Deutschland, formerly a round of the European Rally Championship, takes place from Thursday 22 - Sunday 25 August and kicks off with a ceremonial start in front of the Porta Nigra (Black Gate) in the centre of Trier on Thursday evening. Friday's opening leg, to the northeast, takes the contenders along the River Mosel, a region renowned for its hilly landscape and white wine. The second leg is the longest and held on military land around Baumholder, south-east of Trier, while the final day of competition is centred around the picturesque city of St. Wendel, near the tranquil Bostalsee-lake, where the second service park is located. The route covers 23 special stages over 416.01 competitive kilometres in a total distance of 1,446.33 kilometres.