Round 9 of the 2018 FIA World Rally Championship is Rallye Deutschland (16-19 August), the second of only two fully asphalt rallies in the series. Once again the stages are mostly run over in three distinctively different styles of terrain, the vineyard stages in the Mosel valley, the Baumholder military training grounds and closed public road stages in North Saarland. The rally is again based at the Bostalsee service park though the ceremonial start, the opening super special and finish will be 40 kilometres away at St Wendel. This event, traditionally considered as the most central of the European events in the WRC, is organised as a major spectator attraction in the region with selected stages specifically laid out with easy spectator visibility in mind. One of these is the multi-lap stage 4/7 on the first full day, which this year runs with two laps instead of the three last year, and between the morning and the afternoon arrival of cars organisers provide a variety of entertainment for spectators. The short spectator-friendly stage in the Baumholder complex this year has been lengthened. Special challenge of the region in which much of the rally is held are its well known for summer climatic quirks, where sudden storms can occur without warning, making the task of correct tyre selection very difficult. This rally allows the use of safety crews for the Priority 1 crews, but the main predictive skills rest with the meteorologists attached to each team. 65 crews (including 19 crews in WRC2) have entered including two private WRC cars, a Ford for Jourdan Serderidis, his first rally in a 2017 generation World Rally Car, and a Citroen DS3 for twice European Junior title winner, Marijan Griebel, his first rally in the World Rally Car. Among the 27 entered R5 cars on the entry list are official Skodas for Jan Kopecky and Kalle Rovanpera, while sometime official Skoda driver, Ole Christian Veiby, has a non-championship entry. M-Sport’s occasional driver Eric Camilli is entered in their R5. On his first WRC event is the regular Skoda driver and European Championship competitor, the popular German aristocrat Albert Maria Lamoral Miguel Johannes Gabriel, 12th Prince of Thurn and Taxis. Disappointing results at the preceding WRC event in Finland for the championship leading Hyundai and M-Sport teams and their drivers, coupled with good results for Toyota and Citroen, have concentrated the race for the world championship titles. This rally is considered the home event for Hyundai’s German speaking driver Thierry Neuville, who is leading the driver’s series and was the scene of his first WRC victory, in 2014. In WRC2, the situation between the two rival Skoda team drivers Pontus Tidemand and Jan Kopecky, whose programmes are designed so as not to confront each other on the same events, continues. This time it is the fourth appearance for Kopecky, who has won the category outright on his three previous WRC2 outings this year, aiming to catch up with Tideman, who has gained maximum points on all his four entries this year. This event is not in the calendar this year for the Junior WRC, so the associated WRC3 series has only a restricted entry of five cars. Top entry is the French driver Jean-Baptiste Franceschi, who leads the series by 17 points from fellow JWRC driver Dennis Radstrom, who is one point ahead of his fellow Swede Emil Bergqvist. Top placed non Fiesta R2 driver is fourth placed Finn Taisko Lario in a Peugeot R2. Under the rules, this will be Franceschi’s seventh and final chance to score points this year. On his six previous events he has scored two wins and one non-finish, which means he will keep all points gained this time. Team by Team Citroen This time only two entries, both drivers using with their Sardinia cars. Ostberg’s had been first used in Sardinia 2017 and Breen’s was the car new there this year. The team comes to Germany after a most encouraging rally in Finland when Ostberg finished second, their only unexpected surprise being the fuel pressure problem at the downtown stage for Breen and Al Qassimi, which they report will be overcome in Germany. Six days of testing, two days each in June and total of two days the week before the rally. Since Corsica, the team’s last event on asphalt, both cars will have the new rear subframe. Citroen Total entered C3 R5 cars for Stephane Lefebvre and Simone Tempestini. Currently there is no change in the plan that Ostberg will have no drive this year in Rally Catalunya. Hyundai Sardinia provided an event of mixed fortunes, with Paddon benefitting from his good running order position and Neuville and Mikkelsen both heavily suffering on days 2 and 3 because of driver mistakes on Day 1. This time Sordo replaces Paddon in the third car. The team stated that their new differential actuation valve, aimed at assisting the mechanism, did not improve performance in Finland. Five days testing spread between all three drivers in vineyards and Baumholder, centred on suspensions and differentials in an attempt to improve the balance of the car, Also to find suitable compromise settings to handle different stage characteristics encountered on the same loop of stages. The same three cars which these drivers used in Sardinia. M-Sport Finland was a huge disappointment and specific reasons are not yet clear. For Germany the team had one day test for each driver in the vineyards and one day for Ogier and Evans in the military ‘s stages. More testing was to be held just before the rally. Once again only Ogier’s car will have the aero modifications, while it was never intended to fit dampers from a different supplier on asphalt stages. All three team cars are the same as in Finland with no major technical asphalt-related changes (apart from Ogier’s damper) since Corsica. M-Sport also enter the 2017 specification World Rally Car for Serderidis, used through 2017 by Tanak, and on the first rallies this year by Evans. Also Eric Camilli in an R5 car and they will run the R5 car for Gus Greensmith. Toyota A great event in Finland for the team apart from the final day crash of Esapekka Lappi. The cars go to Germany with the upgraded engines seen in Finland. Each driver as a new car for this event (Latvala chassis 9, Tanak 10 and Lappi 11) with a more forgiving set-up compared with Corsica and more adaptable to suddenly changing conditions, but otherwise unchanged asphalt specification. No Toyota has won WRC Rallye Deutschland, though their driver Tanak won the rally last year in a Ford, while also in other cars Latvala has twice finished second, and Lappi won WRC2 in 2016.
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