WRC: ADAC Rallye Deutschland - preview
World Rally Championship will be continued next weekend with ADAC Rally Deutschland. Ninth round of world rally premium competition is based in Trier, which hosts Thursday night’s start. It features 21 stages covering 374.43 km in the narrow Mosel vineyards, the Eifel hills, Saarland country roads and Baumholder military area. All the territory is familiar from previous years, with subtle changes to keep the crews on their toes.
Friday kicks off at Sauertal near the Luxembourg border, which will be used in the reverse direction from that of 2014, before the Waxweiler stage on the Eifel slopes. Two tests in the fast vineyards complete the loop, before all four are repeated in the afternoon. Saturday brings a mix of everything ADAC Rallye Deutschland offers. A trip through the vineyards and Saarland country roads near St Wendel are blended with five Panzerplatte special stages (three times 2.87km sprint and two times 45.6km long stage).
The tank training area at Baumholder is popular with fans, but strikes fear into the hearts of competitors who must contend with roads varying from ultra-smooth asphalt to cobbles and broken concrete. But the most daunting aspect are the infamous hinkelsteins, concrete kerbstones lining the tracks that cross the military ranges. Designed to keep tanks on the roads, for rally cars is better to stray far away. The final leg close to Trier comprises two identical loops of two tests. It ends with the Dhrontal live TV Power Stage in the vineyards, which offers bonus points to the fastest three drivers.
Rallye Deutschland has a special significance for Volkswagen Motorsport, team with two world championship titles, which is victorious all over the world but is missing only one win – in their home country. In previous two years Volkswagen’s leading drivers Sebastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala retired while leading and only Andreas Mikkelsen saved the reputation with last year’s 3rd place. Now all three will have a chance to overhaul their mistakes and bring the victory to Volkswagen. Ogier also has a theoretical chance to secure his third consecutive world title.
Rallye Deutschland is a part of WRC since 2002 (not held in 2009) and Citroën has absolute dominance with 11 wins, which is broken last year with first ever victory for Hyundai Motorsport and Thierry Neuville. After nine victories of Sebastien Loeb and one win of Sebastien Ogier (2011) the French manufacturer was close to winning again last year before Kris Meeke crashed out of the lead on the final day. So, British driver also has unfinished business at Rally Deutschland, same as his colleagues from VW.
The rally will be the first for the 2015-spec DS 3 that was introduced at Vodafone Rally de Portugal. Citroën says the improved engine performance, rear suspension geometry and aerodynamics will benefit the car significantly at tarmac. A test session held in France, close to the German border, enabled the crews to begin work on adjusting to the pace of the surface after a run of gravel rallies. Besides regular drivers Kris Meeke and Mads Ostberg, young Stephane Lefebvre will sit in the third DS3 WRC.
Hyundai will have the winners of previous two German rounds – Thierry Neuville won last year and Dani Sordo won in 2013 as a Citroën’s driver, so their expectations are high. We will see can they repeat last year’s historic 1-2 win, but undoubtly they can promise great fight for every second. Hyundai is challenging Citroen for second place in the Manufacturers’ Championship and is hoping to close the two point deficit.
Neuville and Sordo will be joined by Hayden Paddon and Kevin Abbring, who will drive another two cars for Hyundai’s second-tier squad. For the first time, Paddon will start with the same specification i20 WRC as teammates Neuville and Sordo, while Abbring will miss out on the latest engine upgrades but will have the benefit of a paddle-shift transmission.
We must not forget drivers of Ford Fiesta RS. M-Sport factory duo Ott Tanak and Elfyn Evans will be joined by regular privateers Robert Kubica, Martin Prokop and Lorenzo Bertelli. New entry in the same car is Slovak driver Jaroslav Melicharek. There will also be two drivers of RGT Cup behind the wheels of attractive Porsches – Romain Dumas and Francois Delecour.
Photos: Volkswagen Motorsport, Citroen Racing, Hyundai Motorsport