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Following on from a series of seven gravel and snow rallies, Rallye Deutschland is the first round of the 2013 World Championship to be held exclusively on tarmac roads.

Competing for the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team, the Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen and Dani Sordo/Carlos del Barrio crews will be looking to extend the team’s extraordinary winning run in Germany. The DS3 WRC of the Abu Dhabi Citroën Total WRT will be driven by Khalid Al Qassimi and Scott Martin.

Since the opening round in Monte-Carlo, the WRC has been contested on loose surface roads, with a long series of seven rallies on snow and gravel, taking competitors from Sweden to Finland, taking in Mexico, Portugal, Argentina, Greece and Sardinia on the way. In Germany, the World Rally Cars will return to the more aggressive configuration used on tarmac, with a lower ride height and 18-inch Michelin Pilot Sport tyres.

For Citroën Racing, Rallye Deutschland is a very special event. Starting in 2001, when the event was only part of the European Championship, the Xsara T4 prevailed, driven by Philippe Bugalski and Jean-Paul Chiaroni. And since 2002, when the ADAC Rallye Deutschland was added to the WRC calendar, the team has enjoyed eleven consecutive wins.

Last year, in his first competitive outing in Germany with the Citroën DS3 WRC, Mikko Hirvonen produced a fine performance to take third position. The Finn hopes to do at least as well this season: “It’s a long time since we last drove on tarmac, but testing gave us the opportunity to refamiliarise ourselves with the roads and fine-tune our reflexes. I am looking forward to the start of Rallye Deutschland. It’s always a difficult event, but I really like it, especially when the roads are dry. If we managed to reproduce the same pace that we achieved in testing, I think we can fight for a place on the podium. That’s the minimum objective.”

Tarmac specialist Dani Sordo returns to his favourite surface. He has already finished as runner-up in Germany three times. “I have been looking forward to this series of rallies since the start of the season,” confirmed the Spaniard. “With Monte-Carlo hit by heavy snow, we haven’t really had a tarmac rally so far in 2013. Rallye Deutschland is complicated to manage, with several types of road surface and weather that can often be unpredictable. It’s never easy, but I’ve done well at this event in the past. I’m aiming for the win.”

Abu Dhabi Citroën Total WRT will be running a third car for Khalid Al-Qassimi and Scott Martin. The Emirati is currently carrying an injury to his left hand after a domestic accident: “It will be a difficult rally for me and this injury certainly isn’t going to help. Fortunately, my fingers aren’t broken, but it is still very painful. We’ll be doing some testing this Sunday and I hope to have sufficiently recovered to do myself justice in the rally. I haven’t driven the Citroën DS3 WRC on tarmac as yet, but I can’t wait to get behind the wheel!”

The Citroën DS3 WRCs will get into action on Wednesday afternoon for the shakedown. On Thursday the crews will take part in the ceremonial start in the centre of Cologne before the taking on opening two stages. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the rally will revolve around Trier, with a route featuring roads winding through the Mosel vineyards and two runs on the legendary 41.08 kilometre-long Arena Panzerplatte stage.

THREE QUESTIONS FOR… DANI SORDO

Finally, you’re about to race again on tarmac. Will this be a new start for your season?

“We have only been able to test ourselves against our rivals on this surface at Monte-Carlo. And even then, almost all the roads were covered in snow. It’s difficult to make real comparisons, but my third place was encouraging. It’s no secret that I feel particularly at home this type of road surface. I know what is expected of me and I’m ready! I’m very pleased to be racing on this surface again.”

What are your goals for Germany?

“There are three tarmac rallies coming up between now and the end of the season, and I know my chances of doing well are even higher on this surface. Germany is a rather particular round, with road surfaces that vary greatly from one stage to another. There are a lot of corners which can make the racing line quite dirty, and the weather is often unpredictable. I have already had some good results in these sorts of conditions and I’ll be trying to fight for the win right from the word go.”

Your programme was changed recently. Will the fact you are missing Rally Australia change your approach?

“The decision was taken jointly. It means I can skip the specific preparation needed for Australia and focus more effectively on the three tarmac rallies that are coming up between now and the end of the season. I want to be quick in Germany, France and Spain. I know I can win, and I know how strong this team is. I have everything I need to do the job.”

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