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Next weekend the World Rally Championship fires into action again with the all-tarmac Deutschland Rally. Here we take a close look at the event in our comprehensive preview.

WHAT'S NEW IN GERMANY IN 2006

* The main feature of the event is the rush by teams to leave to go to Finland. To make the move easier logistically, the final service of the event will take place before the final four stages are run (68km of stages). The service park will then be vacated as teams prepare to transport their equipment to the boat at Rostock - over 600km away, the other side of Germany - from where the last available boat leaves early Monday morning. The finish is earlier than usual, the first car crossing the line at 1224.

* One stage venue (stage 3 and 7) is new. Stages 4 and 8 are in the opposite direction to before, as is the spectator stage at St Wendel, which this year is only run once (the final stage on Saturday, number 15).

* Many different spectator activities before and during the event are planned. There will be over 80 designated spectator zones at the stages, and on Thursday afternoon before the event, it is planned to hold jet-ski racing on Bostalsee lake next to the Service Park.

* If Loeb wins, he will become the first driver to win the same world championship rally five times in a row. Tommi Makinen won the Finnish Rally five times in a row (1994-1998), but in 1995 the event did not count for the full championship.

TYRE SPECIFICS

* Number of tyre changes: 7.
* Number of different tread patterns allowed: 2.
* Number of tyres which can be used during the event (including Shakedown): 45.
* Number of tyres which can be nominated for use on the event: 70.
* Maximum stage distance to be covered on same set of tyres: 68.19km (last day).

This is the final all-asphalt event on the 2006 world championship calendar. The special character of this event is that there are three different types of stage. On Friday, the rally concentrates on service roads around vineyards alongside the Mosel valley; on Saturday, the military training ground area at Baumholder; and on the Sunday, closed public road stages in the Saarland region. Each region has its own specific character of roads.  

During the two-month break since the Acropolis Rally, the Pirelli team has tested a new version for the RX construction, which made its debut in Catalunya. This new construction is designed to give more feeling to the driver, and is better in braking and traction. The biggest improvement is on very smooth and slippery tarmac, like the surfaces found in the vineyard areas.  

Three compound levels are available: 5 (hard), 5+ (medium), 7 (soft). In case of rain, Pirelli uses - as usual - the RE tread pattern, which is available in two compound levels: 7 (wet but warm) and 9 (wet and cold). There is a new 7 level compound which promises better performance in wet and very slippery conditions.  In Germany, Pirelli will provide tyres to the two Impreza 2006 cars from SWRT (drivers Petter Solberg and Stephane Sarrazin) and one Impreza 2005 from Subaru Australia Rally Team (driver Chris Atkinson).

EVENT SPECIFICS

Route
* Total distance: 1300.48km.
* Number of stages: 19.
* Number of different stage venues: 11.
* Maximum number of times same stage roads are used: twice.
* Stage distance: 351.55 km.
* Stage surfaces: asphalt.
* Longest stage: 30.66km (stages 10/12).
* Highest elevation on stage: 500 metres (on stages 16/19).
* Permanent Service Park: Bostalsee.
* Shakedown Stage: 3.18km long, at a location 2km north of the Service Park.
* Ceremonial Start: 2000 Thursday Porta Nigra, Trier.
* Official Start: 0830 Friday Bostalsee.
* Superspecials: only the downtown stage (number 15) at St Wendel on Saturday afternoon.
* Stages in darkness: none.

Restart times
* Friday: (8 stages,134.72km) Bostalsee at 0830.
* Saturday: (7 stages, 148.64km) Bostalsee at 0700.
* Sunday: (4 stages, 68.19km) Bostalsee at 0700.
* Finish: Porta Nigra, Trier at 1224.

Anticipated times of leading car at end of last stage
* Thursday: no stages.
* Friday: 1730.
* Saturday: 1755.
* Sunday: 1130.


TEAM NEWS

KRONOS TOTAL CITROEN WORLD RALLY TEAM (M1)
Dani Sordo replaces Xavi Pons as the official number two driver, for here and for Finland. Both Dani and Sebastien have come to the World Rally Championship after becoming JWRC champions! Chance of a fifth German win in a row for Loeb.  

BP FORD WORLD RALLY TEAM (M1)
Two new cars for this event. Rally Deutschland is the home event for Ford, being run close to the Saarlouis facility where production Focus cars are built.  

SUBARU WORLD RALLY TEAM (M1)
Three-car team, with Stephane Sarrazin at the wheel of the number two car, and Chris Atkinson in the active suspension 2005 third car. Solberg and Sarrazin have new cars. Mid-season development work has continued apace, now into the second stage of Prodrive's testing programme.  

OMV PEUGEOT NORWAY (M2)
This team did not nominate Germany within their 12-rally programme, but Manfred Stohl will take part on a non-championship basis.  

STOBART-VK M-SPORT FORD RALLY TEAM (M2)
"Baby team" is back again! For this event, Jari-Matti Latvala drives the second car, but in Finland the second car will be driven by Kosti Katajamaki.  

RED BULL SKODA TEAM (M2)
For this event, former DTM champion Mattias Ekstrom drives the number one car. Note: the team does not go to Finland.


CHAMPIONSHIP NEWS

2006 WRC/WDC News
* During the midsummer break, several developments occurred in the sport. The most notable decisions made by the WMSC meeting on July 5 were issued in a communique by the FIA. This listed the rallies to be run in the 2007 season, and explained that the proposed change to a mid-year calendar has been shelved. As a result, Suzuki has announced their official WRC programme will now begin at the start of the 2008 season.

* Peugeot Sport Director Jean-Pierre Nicolas announced his retirement. His responsibilities are being taken over by Michel Barge.

* Mitsubishi World Rally Cars have not been idle. They scored a spectacular 1-2 on Ireland's most popular event, the Donegal Rally, in the hands of Andrew Nesbitt and Mark Higgins.

* Former Red Bull Skoda driver Gilles Panizzi is back at Peugeot, carrying out test driving work on the 207 Super 2000 car.

* Many top drivers were among friends who attended the unveiling of a memorial in Tallinn to the late Michael Park.

* The new generation has arrived. Evgeni Novikov won the fourth round of the Russian national championship. Andreas Mikkelsen won the national British clubman’s championship Quinton Stages Rally. Respectively they are 15 and 17 years old!  

2006 Junior/Production Car World Championship News
* Of the 24 entries in the series, only ten Junior World Championship teams are planning to enter both Germany and Finland.

* Production Car championship teams do not appear in the world championship until Japan, at the begi nning of September. Gabriel Pozzo of the Argentine Tango team, meanwhile, has been contesting some national championship events, to gain more experience with the latest Ohlins shock absorbers.  

Non Championship Entry News
* Four diesel cars entered! The rally route this year has been planned so that private drivers can refuel their cars from commercial filling stations en route.

Current championship standings
* WRC (after round 8 Greece): Kronos Total Citroen WRT 96 points, BP-Ford WRT 81, Subaru WRT 63, OMV-Peugeot Norway 41, Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team 17, Red Bull Skoda Team 14.

* WDC (after round 8 Greece): Loeb 74 points, Gronholm 45, Sordo 33, Hirvonen 21, P. Solberg & Stohl 20, Galli, Pons, Gardemeister & H. Solberg 11, Bengue 9, etc.

* JWRC (after round 5 Italy): Sandell 26 points, Andersson 21, Aava 20, Rautenbach 17, Beres 12, etc.


EVENT HISTORY

Recent winners
2005 - Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena, Citroen Xsara WRC (102.91kph).
2004 - Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena, Citroen Xsara WRC (102.19kph).
2003 - Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena, Citroen Xsara WRC (102.69kph).
2002 - Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena, Citroen Xsara WRC (103.67kph).
NB: First world championship rally was in 2002


ENTRY DETAILS

77 entries have been accepted, including 12 Priority 2 entries in World Rally Cars and 13 contenders in the Junior World Rally Championship; the others are privateers.


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