After the earlier part of the season in which rough special stage predominated, the recent Neste Rally Finland started the transition to smoother roads in the WRC.
Rallye Deutschland will as usual be an all-asphalt rally, an event divided uniquely into three different styles of stages. There are the spectacular hillside vineyard stages in the Moselle valley, the vast complex of stages in the vast Baumholder military training ground and the closed public roads of the Saarland region.
For the engineers, each group of stages demand individually set-up procedures on the cars, while for the team managers the local late summer weather provides microclimatic situations across the region and consequently special challenges in tyre selections weather forecasting.
There are two special changes in the rally format this year. For the first time since the German event entered into the WRC, the event moves away from the historic city of Trier, with a new start venue in Saarbrucken.
The service park also moves away to the lakeside tourist facility of Bostalsee, north of Saarbrucken. Evidence that 2017 is one of the most exciting seasons in WRC history is not difficult to find. There have already been six different winning drivers in the nine events held so far this year, not since 2002 have there even more even in a full season, and all four registered teams have won events, the most since 2004.
Rallye Deutschland has ten WRC winning drivers on the entry list including four previous Rallye Deutschland winners, all four in 2017 World Rally Cars.
As if the races for the Drivers and the Manufacturer titles are themselves as vivid as ever (basically Neuville, Ogier, Tanak, Latvala and Evans, then Hyundai versus M-Sport), the race for the WRC2 title is intense because of the permutations provided by the complex scoring rules.
Basically, eligible drivers score points on six of their first seven WRC2 entries and they must enter three specific events in the year (Portugal, Germany and GB) on pain of scoring a zero score for non-participation. Some drivers amassed points early in the season, others waited to assess the viability of success later in the year.
In brief, this event will be critical for M-Sport’s hopes that Teemu Suninen will prevent a Skoda driver winning the WRC2 title again.
65 crews are currently on the entry list, the smallest for this event since 2005, including 15 World Rally Cars and 18 WRC2 cars. There are no R3 cars in the WRC3 category (just six R2 cars) and for a variety of medical and financial reasons, only four Junior WRC drivers.
Among the non FIA championship entries are Skoda Deutschland driver Fabian Kreim, Chewon Lim (his first WRC event with an R5) while Jari Huttunen 2016, who won the WRC2 category in Finland on his first major event in an R5 car, reverts to an Opel Adam R2 car as a prize for winning last year’s ADAC Opel Rallye Cup.
There is now a six week gap before the mixed gravel and asphalt WRC Catalunya Rally, with the cancelled China Rally due to have come in between. Before the end of the season come two more WRC events, Wales Rally GB and Rally Australia.
Even if Rallye Deutschland only entered the WRC after the Millennium at the end of the ADAC -v- AvD war, it is very much a major event in the calendar. This year is the 45th anniversary of the stand-alone Olympia Rally, the massive six day event which was Germany’s first major rally, the occasion which launched the career of their most famous rally driver Walter Rohrl.
Team by TeamCitroen
The same cars as used in Poland (Mikkelsen driving the car used on that occasion by Lefebvre). No entry for Lefebvre or Al Qassimi on this event.
There were no major technical problems in Finland where Meeke and Breen both used Ohlins dampers, but Meeke reported he was not comfortable in the car when grips were lower or changeable.
The team had a six day test session for Germany using locations representing all three varieties of stages. The main happening before Germany was the test with Sebastien Loeb who was reportedly happy with the 2017 car on dry surfaces. Future testing with Loeb have not been specified.
Special technical challenge of the rally is that Germany is the hardest rally of the season for brakes. No major technical changes for this event. For weather forecasting, Citroen Racing work with a Meteo France crew who operate live using their own tools and database.
The team also have weather crews in the stages providing additional information on the current conditions.
Paddon and Sordo have their same cars as in Finland, Neuville the same car he had in Argentina. Even if Neuville now joins Ogier in the drivers’ championship, the Finland results were disappointing.
The team has never been strong in Finland, this year the same, a surprise as a good car in Poland is often a good car in Finland. There were small suspension issues in Finland but Germany should suit Hyundai better.
Two days test for Sordo and Neuville in military area early July, four days in vineyards week before rally for all crews. Main challenge is to find compromise set-ups good for each group of stages.
For weather forecasting work, the team has a meteorologist from Meteo France with them and also weather crews on the stages. This year’s closer location of the Service Park to the stages should make the work easier. No special technical novelties for this event.
New car for Ogier (chassis 9), Tanak has his car that had been new for Poland, Evans his original car and Kremer the ex-Bertelli and Suninen car.
Ogier’s co-driver Ingrassia is expected to be fit enough to compete in Germany, the car’s new regulatory side impact protection system working well, but it was necessary to revert to the team’s original test car. Windscreen wiper problems in Finland for Tanak and Evans still not resolved.
The five day Germany tests concentrated on the vineyard and military stage areas. Technical challenge of this event are the three different set-up requirements, but apart from general damper development, there are no technical novelties.
Regarding weather forecasting, M-Sport once again have a member of the Meteo France team with them in the service park. They arrive each day in the service area early and report their forecasts to the team each morning. In addition, weather crews who are positioned are various points as agreed with the team before the rally.
So far as R5 crews are concerned, the team’s WRC2 challenger Teemu Suninen has a new car and Adapta have an R5 for Ostberg instead of their WRC car.
Latvala and Hanninen have the same cars as Sardinia, Lappi the same car he used in Finland.
Analysis of Latvala’s engine problem was that the ECU suddenly and irrevocably failed. Testing on the military grounds was carried out in July, the tests on the vineyard stages were carried out the week before the rally.
German stages are quite rough for a tarmac rally, especially taking account of the cutting possibilities. This is a challenge for both reliability of components and finding ideal suspension settings.
TGR made various technical developments since its last outing in tarmac spec. Big recent news is that this will be the final rally with TGR for team manager Jarmo Lehtinen, his tasks will be temporarily shared between Timo Kankkunen (test manager, Juha’s brother) and Christopher Rowden (rally engineer).
For weather forecasting the team has a representative from a meteo company working inside the engineering trailer.
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