WRC teams switch to tarmac in Germany
Repco Rally New Zealand
12 August 2008
WRC teams switch to tarmac in Germany
Competition in the 2008 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) intensifies with this weekend’s (14-17 August) tenth round in Germany, an all-tarmac rally run the fortnight before the all-gravel Repco Rally New Zealand.
ADAC Rallye Deutschland features three days of action in Germany’s south-west, with the rally heart alongside the MoselleRiverin the city of Trier. An estimated 200,000 spectators are expected to line the 19 special stages of the event’s historic location.
Heading the field of 87 teams from 25 countries, Finland’s Mikko Hirvonen starts with a slender one point lead over current driver champion and six-time winner of the Germany event, Sébastien Loeb, of France.
“It’s good to be first in the start order here,” said Hirvonen, driving for the BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team. “Although on asphalt the advantages and disadvantages aren’t as great as on gravel. The first cars pull mud and dirt onto the road so it makes it harder for those lower down the order, so road conditions are the single most important factor on this rally. If the weather is dry then it's an enjoyable event with some fast and flowing stages.”
Hirvonen and team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala will debut the 2008 version of the Focus RS, with changes to the front grill area reflecting the looks of the recently-released Focus RS road car. The new turbo and crankshaft are expected to increase the range of power available to the team’s two drivers.
Along with a new car, Hirvonen also has to contend with his arch-rival, Loeb, who has won the German event every year for Citroën for the past six years and will be keen to retake the drivers’ championship points’ lead with another victory.
The tarmac event will also be the first test of this kind for the new hatchback-shaped Subaru Impreza WRC2008. Currently third in the driver standings, Australia’s Chris Atkinson says current form should help them bench-mark the new car: “…this year we have a new car on new tyres and the first rally on tarmac so it’s hard to know where we are speed-wise. If we can carry the same form we had last year it would be good. We will go there pushing hard and get a gauge of our performance, and then see how we go from there,” said 28-year old Atkinson.
An event famous for its unforgiving nature, the narrow roads through wine country in the Mosel region are characterised by fast stretches punctuated with tight hair-pin turns at irregular intervals. Adding to the variety, a day spent in the Baumholder military ranges introduces the hinkelstein, a large concrete kerb block set alongside the road edge to deter army tanks from traversing through the fields. With the road surface varying between concrete and asphalt, ever-changing weather will alter grip levels significantly on the roads. At this event, drivers will have the choice between a hard or soft compound of the Pirelli PZero asphalt tyre to account for both wet and dry conditions.
Starting on Thursday evening at 8pmfrom Trier’s Porta Nigra, a UNESCO World Heritage site, the action begins on Friday morning at 8:30amwith six stages covering 108km of competition through the Moselwine region. Saturday’s eight stages traverse the Baumholder and Saarlandareas with Sunday’s remaining five stages again through the Moselto bring the competitive total to 352.89km.
Also a qualifying round of the Junior World Rally Championship (J-WRC), the fifth of seven events, France’s Sébastien Ogier currently leads with crews needing to start six events to qualify for the title.
More information on Repco Rally New Zealandcan be found on the website: www.rallynz.org.nz