Seventy of the original 86 competitors left a wet and cloudy Parc ferme this morning to travel 63km east to the military training ground at Baumholder for the second Leg of Rallye Deutschland. Comprising 164 competitive kilometres and eight ...
Seventy of the original 86 competitors left a wet and cloudy Parc ferme this morning to travel 63km east to the military training ground at Baumholder for the second Leg of Rallye Deutschland.
Comprising 164 competitive kilometres and eight stages, Leg 2 presented drivers with a series of fast, rough concrete tracks, littered with stones and flanked by large roadside boulders normally used to keep military tanks on the road. They had the opposite effect for many of today's contenders however, as overnight rain, which continued to fall throughout the morning, left the slippery roads in a treacherous condition.
Like yesterday's Leg, the French manufacturers dominated the action and Citroen's Sebastian Loeb traded stage wins with Peugeot team-mates Burns and Gronholm throughout the day. At the end of the Leg Loeb maintained his overall lead, with a 10.1 advantage over second placed Burns. Gronholm lies third, 15.3 seconds behind. After making changes to the set up of his car, 555 Subaru Team driver Tommi Mäkinen had a good day at the wheel of his Impreza WRC 2002 and moved up six places to end the day ninth.
As expected, today's unforgiving stages caused a number of high profile retirements. 555 Subaru driver Petter Solberg's hopes of another points finish were dashed when he went off the road on SS11, and his team-mate, Achim Mörtl, saw his Subaru debut cut short in the same way. Other retirements included Loix, Bulgalski and Gardemeister while Hyundai's Armin Schwarz and co-driver Manfred Hiemer were lucky to escape serious injury after an accident on SS10.
SS9 0930hrs Maiwald 1 (18.73km)
Fastest time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 10:58.6
In intermittent heavy rain, the slippery conditions of the twisty Maiwald test, brought drama from the outset which shook up the overall standings. Following yesterday's problems, Gronholm was on the attack from the outset and finished quickest - 13 seconds ahead of second placed Richard Burns. His pace, in addition to a 10-second penalty picked up by Colin McRae at the end of last night's service, moved him back up to third overall. Subaru's Petter Solberg capitalised on an advantageous running position, finished third and moved up to seventh overall. His team-mate Mäkinen, who was running first on the road, caught more of the heavy rain than those cars following and was forced to slow on several occasions to avoid crowds of spectators. He was eleventh. The hazardous conditions claimed the first casualties of the day. Subaru's Achim Mörtl, on his debut for the team, aquaplaned on a slippery corner, went off the road and lost a wheel. Bad news too for Citroen. Following yesterday's excellent run, Frenchman Philippe Bugalski skidded off the road, damaged an oil pipe and was unable to continue.
SS10 0958hrs Panzerplatte 1 (35.56km)
Fastest time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 21:27.0
Arguably the most difficult test of the rally, SS10 certainly proved to be problematic for Hyundai. Local hero Armin Schwarz rolled his Accent WRC 2km from the finish line, braking a rib in the impact, and bringing the manufacturers rally to an abrupt end. It was a bitter disappointment for the team following their solid performance in Leg 1. Bad luck too for Skoda's Kenneth Eriksson. Contending with a broken drive shaft problem that he collected in SS9, the Swede lost more than six minutes. Looking to the leaders, Gronholm was again quickest, finishing more than seven seconds ahead of Loeb, with Burns a further ten seconds behind in third. Solberg was fourth fastest and moved up to fifth overall. By the end of the stage the Norwegian had made up an impressive five places in two stages. After SS10, crews headed back to the Bostalsee service park for a scheduled service.
SS11 1238hrs Maiwald 2 (18.73km)
Fastest time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 10:52.0
On the second run through the Maiwald stage, the treacherous conditions continued to take their toll and this time the casualty was Petter Solberg. Despite charging through the stage to set all three fastest split times, the Norwegian hit a bump on a high-speed corner, slid off the road and lost his right rear wheel and hub unit. He completed the stage but was unable to continue to SS12. Problems too for Peugeot's Harri Rovanpera. The Finn finished only eighteenth having been slowed with a hydraulic problem. Meanwhile, Marcus Gronholm was fastest, three seconds ahead of reigning World Champion Richard Burns. Subaru's Tommi Mäkinen, now more comfortable with a revised set up on his Impreza WRC, set a blistering pace and finished third, two seconds ahead of Ford's McRae.
SS12 1306hrs Hahlkreuz (8.31km)
Fastest time: Burns (Peugeot) 4:53.3
Following his excellent run through SS11, Mäkinen continued his charge and completed the short Hahlkreuz stage second fastest, just 1.2 seconds behind Burns. He moved to tenth position overall. Gronholm was third fastest. However, there was trouble at the top for Sebastian Loeb, the young Frenchman hit one of the large boulders which line the military course and, collecting steering problems, dropped almost twenty seconds and saw his overall lead slashed to 6.2 seconds. In addition, Rovanpera continued to be dogged by his car's hydraulic problems and dropped a further 10 seconds.
SS13 13.29hrs Erzweiler 1 (20.87km)
Fastest time: Loeb (Citroen) 12:56.6
Answering the earlier pace of the Peugeot's, Loeb was quickest through SS13 to clinch his first win of Leg 2. Mitsubishi's Francois Delecour, in only his second rally with the new Lancer Evolution WRC2, was less than a second behind and moved up to seventh place overall while Ford's Sainz was third. Not such a sparkling stage for the Peugeots however. Gronholm suffered a spin and then stalled to finish sixth fastest, whilst Burns was only seventh quickest and relinquished 12 seconds back to Loeb in the overall battle for first. Rovanpera completed the stage in 22nd and, still hampered by a hydraulic fault, was glad to return to Bostalsee at the end of the test for the scheduled service.
SS14 1604hrs Panzerplatte 2 (35.56km)
Fastest time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 20:39.7
A repeated stage and a similar incident on SS14 as the twisty 35.56km brought yet another retirement - this time that of Skoda's Toni Gardemeister. The Finn rolled his Octavia WRC towards of the stage, limped to the finish, but had to retire with damage to his radiator. Fortunately, neither Gardemeister nor co-driver Lukander was injured. At the end of the test, the Czech team had just one works car remaining in the event, that of Kenneth Eriksson, who lay in 21st place overall. Back on form, Marcus Gronholm was again top and took the stage win, with Burns five seconds behind in second. Tommi Mäkinen finished a strong fourth for the 555 Subaru team, behind Loeb who was third. His hydraulic problem fixed, Rovanpera was back on the pace but received a 20-second penalty for leaving the previous service late.
SS15 1652hrs Erzweiler 2 (20.87km)
Fastest time: Loeb (Citroen) 12:21.1
This time it was Loeb's turn to head the battle for the top spot and clinch the stage win. However, finishing just 0.2 seconds ahead of Gronholm and 3.1 seconds ahead of third placed Burns, the Peugeot team-mates remained in striking distance of the Frenchman overall with 35.3 seconds separating the trio and eight stages still to run. Rovanpera was fourth and best of the rest was Tommi Mäkinen who was fifth quickest in his Impreza WRC. After the penultimate test he was ninth overall, 26.1 seconds behind Ford's Markko Martin.
SS16 1917hrs Super Special Stage St. Wendel 1 (5.81km)
Fastest time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 3:36.5
The first run of the event around the 5.81km Super Special Stage contested through the streets of St. Wendel produced no upsets to the overall leaderboard. Stage winner was Gronholm, closely followed by Burns in second with a revitalised Mäkinen third. Sebastian's Loeb was only eleventh fastest after overshooting a corner. He dropped 10 seconds to his rivals but maintained the overall lead.
As this is the first time that Rallye Deutschland has ever been included in the WRC calendar, we spoke to 555 Subaru co-driver Phil Mills about preparing for an all-new WRC event and the rallying conditions that are unique to Leg 2:
Q: As this is a new event, what extra planning is required by the co-driver?
A: The main difference about coming to a new event is that you don't have any pace notes from previous years. Normally, co-drivers use old notes and refine them during the recce, tailoring them to the new event. However, for this rally I arrived only with five brand new empty notebooks and a lot of work to do! At a new event the recce is critical and I use the time for collecting data and making precise notes about each of the events stages. I'll then refine these throughout the rally, especially on those stages that are re-run later in the day.
Q: Many people have commented that the conditions in Leg 2 are unique to this event. Having completed the recce, what are your feelings about those that have been chosen?
A: The most difficult aspect of Leg 2 is that the fact that it's made up of lots of different surface changes. The drivers have to contend with old concrete, broken concrete, abrasive concrete, cracked concrete, loose gravel, not to mention the large kerb stones that line much of the route - you name it, it's all in Leg 2! It's also likely that stones will get flicked up onto the road by the front runners making it potentially more slippery throughout the day. Therefore, this is one of the few rallies where it's actually an advantage to be running higher up the order. The route has some similarities to Monte Carlo. There you have to watch for black ice and here you have to watch for the changing road surface. In contrast, Leg 3, contested out in the countryside, is technically not as difficult. However, competitors will still have to watch for the big cuts drafted into the Leg (this when the cars go off the road into the fields). On Leg 3 many cars will be at their lowest ride settings of the championship because the roads are so smooth and fast.
Q: In your opinion, which stage do you think will be the trickiest for drivers today?
A: Probably the 35.56km Panzerplatte test (used for SS10 and SS14). There are eight different surface changes in that stage and you wouldn't find that anywhere else in the world. I have had to clearly mark where all the changes are in my pace notes because if it's raining they all look the exactly the same colour and are hard to distinguish. A driver needs to know precisely where the changes are before he's upon them so he can adjust his driving style accordingly.
Tomorrow's decisive final leg starts at 0630hrs when crews leave the Trier Parc ferme. Ahead of them lie seven further stages and 102 competitive kilometres. The final result will be decided by a return visit to the Super Special Stage at St. Wendel. The winning car is expected to cross the finish ramp back in Trier at 1600hrs.