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M-Sport World Rally Team’s Mikko Hirvonen and Elfyn Evans will be looking to make an impression on asphalt next week as the FIA World Rally Championship embarks on the first pure Tarmac event of the year – the fearsome ADAC Rallye Deutschland.

Regarded as three rallies in one, the German fixture is one of a kind. Incorporating marked variation in character, the blacktop stages demand precision driving and expert preparation. Changing grip levels and unpredictable forecasts are the order of the weekend and crews have to master a blend of speed and adaptability.
Littered with junctions and tight hairpin bends, the angular tracks through the Mosel vineyards offer a stark contrast to the country roads of Saarland where the Ford Fiesta RS WRCs are let loose at maximum speed. But it is arguably the perilous dash between the ‘Hinkelstein’ concrete blocks of the Arena Panzerplatte for which the event has become famed.
Those in the hunt for the top positions need to be on the pace throughout each variation of the rally’s diverse character. There’s no resting on your laurels in Germany and complete trust in your car and safety crew is essential. Settle into a comfortable rhythm, and you risk being swiftly left behind; attack each mud-strewn bend and deceptive cut with blind faith, and you risk bringing your rally to an untimely end.

The German asphalt certainly demands respect and there are few more experienced than Hirvonen and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen. The Finns know what it takes to tame the daunting roads of the Rhineland and will apply all of their knowledge in pursuit of a strong result.
The Finns have been plagued by misfortune this season, but having finished on the podium three times in Germany they’ll be determined to prove a point.
Embarking on the second phase of their development, Evans and co-driver Daniel Barritt will be looking to show further progression. The Welshman is anticipating an easier transition to his top-specification Fiesta on asphalt, but remains true to his character as one of the championship’s most grounded young talents.
The youngster takes a wealth of four-wheel-drive experience forward having secured a highly impressive sixth place behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta R5 in 2013, but his attention remains firmly fixed on gaining the vital knowledge and experience to support his future ambitions.
Mikko Hirvonen said:
“It’s going to be an interesting rally. I really enjoyed the Fiesta in the tricky conditions in 2011 so it will be good to see how it handles on asphalt this year.
“There’s no getting away from the fact that Germany is a challenging event. The grip levels are constantly changing and you have to understand the road and the changes in conditions.
“As we saw last year, it can sometimes be a rally of survival, but finding the right balance between survival and setting the good times is really tricky. Even if it’s dry, we need to remember that we are rallying through working vineyards so there is always a lot of gravel on the road. Then when it rains, a lot of mud gets pulled out from the cuts.
“The biggest challenge is being committed through the cuts. You need to be really brave and have complete trust in your car and your safety crew. Thankfully, my safety crew have done a fantastic job for me this year.
“We’ve been hoping to be on the podium at every event this year but for various reasons it hasn’t quite come together. We know it will be tough, but if everything comes together and we can be up there fighting, it would be absolutely perfect.”
Elfyn Evans said:
“This is an event that I’ve been looking forward to all season. It’s the first round of the year where we will have some substantial four-wheel-drive experience to carry forward and we drove a really good event here last year. I felt confident all weekend and I hope to carry some of that confidence forward next week.
“We’re used to the speed of a world rally car now so I don’t expect the transition to be as marked as it was on gravel, but my primary objective remains the same. Experience is everything in this sport and that is what we will be focusing on.
“I really enjoy the technical nature of the German stages and generally feel fairly confident on asphalt. It’s not an easy event by all means. It’s the most difficult of the pure Tarmac rallies with unpredictable weather, mud and plenty of obstacles to avoid!
“It’s effectively three rallies in one with tight, twisty sections through the vineyards, broken asphalt on the military ground and wide country roads in Saarland. If you’re going for the top positions you need to be on the pace through every change of surface; you can’t sit back and let the speed come gradually.
“Of course for us there is no pressure to be pushing for the top results just yet. This is the first of three Tarmac events so it’s important to get the mileage, gain momentum and secure the base knowledge that is so vital to doing well at this level.
“I don’t have a specific result in mind, but we’d like to see some good progression and positive stage times throughout the weekend. It would be nice to improve on last year, and if we can do that, then I think it will be a very positive event for us.”

M-Sport continue to dominate the field with 44 per cent of the overall entry. Twenty-four different nationalities have opted for the Blue Oval – proving that M-Sport’s range of Ford Fiesta rally cars remain a firm favourite with competitors around the globe. Nine Ford Fiesta RS WRCs have been entered alongside two Ford Fiesta RRCs, eight Ford Fiesta R5s and 20 Ford Fiesta R2s.
In addition to Hirvonen and Evans, M-Sport will run a further three Fiesta RS WRCs for Robert Kubica, Dennis Kuipers and Yuriy Protasov. Dutchman Kuipers is making a welcome return to the championship and Ukrainian Protasov is making his debut behind the wheel of M-Sport’s top-specification Fiesta.
The M-Sport team will also run the Fiesta R5 of 2013’s FIA Junior World Rally Champion, Pontus Tidemand. The talented Swede secured a podium finish on his debut with the latest Fiesta at Rally de Portugal and will be capable of a similar feat next week.

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