Happy 50th for Solberg in Germany
- 14th August 2007, 11:56am
While there are no milestones for team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Matthew Wilson, they too have good reason to look for strong results after superb performances in Finland last week which saw Latvala leading the event after two stages and Wilson finish inside the top-ten.
The first ever Rallye Deutschland was held back in 1982 and was accepted into the WRC ranks in 2002 where it has stayed ever since. The fast-paced event is based around the ancient city of Trier, home of the stunning Porta Nigra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps, which is estimated to be over 1800-years-old.
Rallye Deutschland is the second pure asphalt rally for 2007, the foregoing was in Monte Carlo way back in January for the opening WRC round. The 356 kilometres of competitive stage distance is made up of 19 stages with two remote services on Saturday, some 83 kilometres away in Konken.
The event offers competitors a variety of sealed surfaces. There are narrow vineyard roads which can often be dusted with a light gravel which runs down off the hillside wineries. Wide, but slippery, roads run through the military land of Baumholder which are lined with immovable stones used to stop tanks during military training exercises. Finally there are notoriously tricky closed public road stages with changing surfaces that have caught out the best of drivers in years gone by.
BF Goodrich Tyres will again play a key role in this event. As in previous years, weather is expected to play a huge part during the rally, with unexpected rain showers causing havoc with crews’ tyres choices. The supply of accurate weather and road surface information from teams’ safety crews will prove to be an essential ingredient to speed and success.
Surprisingly for Solberg, with co-driver Cato Menkerud, of the 50 WRC events this will be his first outing to Germany and only his third attempt at an all-asphalt WRC rally. In a bid to counter his inexperience on tarmac the Norwegian has been out practising this week in a state-of-the-art go-kart on two Norwegian kart tracks.
Twenty-two-year-old Latvala, and co-driver Miikka Anttila, are the most experienced crew on tarmac in the Stobart team. The young Finn has taken on this event four times in the past, setting some amazing stage times last year in a Stobart Ford Focus RS WRC. Latvala found the team’s asphalt test in Spain, in June, a huge benefit as he heads to Germany confident of a solid result.
Last year Wilson, and co-driver Michael Orr, set some good times to finish just outside a top-ten result despite a major turbo issue which lost them quite a chunk of time. With a day of testing on tarmac under their belt and some recent pacenote lessons, the pair are well prepared for their second visit to the difficult German speed tests.
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team Driver Henning Solberg said:
“I do not have much experience on tarmac so we will see what happens. I have spent two full days at two different go-kart tracks with a full-spec go-kart that has a six-speed sequential gear box and disc brakes. I think the time in the go-kart has helped a lot but we will have to wait and see because I really don’t know what to expect from my first time at Germany. My goal for this rally is to finish in the top-eight, if I can get a point here I will be very happy. I did not know this was my 50th rally, it does not seem like that many but hopefully I can celebrate with a good result here. There are a lot more tarmac rallies ahead so finishing here will be the most important thing so I can have maximum experience for the up coming tarmac events.”
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team Driver Jari-Matti Latvala said:
“Germany is one of the most difficult rallies in the championship and not because of the roads but because of the weather. The area of the rally is known for big showers and rain storms and when the roads are wet they can be so tricky. This is because often the mud gets washed onto the roads, especially around the vineyards, which makes them extremely slippery. For me it is difficult because it makes it hard to judge how fast you can push when conditions are like this. I really like these stages and when it is dry it is really fast and fun to drive. The setup we used at the test was surprisingly good and it will certainly help the confidence knowing we have a decent setup heading into the event.”
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team Driver Matthew Wilson said:
“This is a tough rally and it can be even harder if the weather forecast is bad. If the weather is going to be inconsistent it can make things very tough. There are long periods on this rally without any tyre changes so tyre choice is crucial and once you have made it you have to stick with it. For me this is certainly one of the most difficult rallies and my plan will be to have a steady start, aim to get to the finish with no major problems and gain as much valuable mileage and experience on this surface as possible. This leaves me with more confidence to pick up my pace on the next gravel rally in New Zealand.”
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
“Hopefully the weather forecast will be kind to the Stobart team on this event. Because of the lack of experience the drivers have on the event it can be very tricky in the wet with all the debris that gets thrown up onto the surface which surrounds the roads. It will be important for all three crews to finish the rally to get maximum experience for the future. It has been a long time since our last tarmac rally so if they all get through to the end it will certainly help as they will secure crucial mileage and experience as we head towards the remaining tarmac events this year.”
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