The ninth round of the season, Rally Deutschland, sees a return to tarmac after four rallies on gravel. Official Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT representatives Craig Breen / Scott Martin and Mads Østberg / Torstein Eriksen will compete on a particularly challenging route as they seek to build on their momentum from Finland.
STARKLY CONTRASTING ROADS
This weekend, Rally Deutschland competitors will face the challenge of performing well on three completely different types of road. Apart from Corsica, the German rally is only the second of the season to be run entirely on tarmac.
The rally will begin with a day dominated by narrow and technically demanding special stages, in which competitors first scale and then hurtle down the slopes of the Mosel vineyards. The Saturday will see the WRCs transform into “Panzers” or “tanks” as they pass through the most inhospitable of military bases. The rest of the rally will be contested amid the fields of the Saarland, where the tarmac inevitably gets pretty dirty.
Despite the many challenges presented by Rally Deutschland, including the further complication of unpredictable weather, Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT has secured twelve victories here since 2001 (including eleven in the WRC).
The team have tried to pass that experience onto Craig Breen and Mads Østberg, the two drivers competing in this year’s rally, with five days of intensive testing on a wide range of special-stage roads.
Craig Breen has shown his penchant for tarmac, having finished fifth at Rally Deutschland last year in a race that built to a crescendo and ended with a scratch time. Craig Breen also clocked three of the fastest times in Corsica. Meanwhile, galvanised by his recent feats in Finland, Mads Østberg will be aiming to finish in the points, despite his lack of experience on tarmac in the C3 WRC.
A TOUGHER FINAL DAY
Although it remains largely the same, a few changes have been made to Rally Deutschland, including the opening super-special stage which will now take place in St. Wendel, rather than Saarbrücken. Friday will also see the return of the Stein Und Wein stage, which last featured in 2015, and the inclusion of the Grafschaft stage on Sunday. This select 29.07km route through the Mosel vineyards, which will be run twice, should make for a thrilling final day of rallying before the Bosenberg Power Stage, which also featured in 2015.
Pierre Budar, Citroën Racing Team Principal: “After our podium finish in Finland, the aim for Rally Deutschland will be to pick up where we left off and to show, as we did in Corsica, how good the C3 WRC is on tarmac. Of course, the weather will play a crucial role once again, but we have done our utmost to go into this meeting as prepared as possible, with a big test session that covered the Mosel vineyards, the military base and the Saarland.”
Craig Breen: “I'm excited to get back on the tarmac. It’s been a year since I last competed in a 100% tarmac rally. The Saturday stage will no doubt be decisive again, with the two runs through the Baumholder military base; but before that, I really hope we can start the rally in ideal conditions without any rain. Since our tests in Germany at the start of the summer, I have had an extra day of testing in Alsace to get back into the habits you need to drive on tarmac, and I’ll be giving it my all to rediscover the joys of the podium.”
Number of appearances at the event: 3
Best result: 5th (2017)
Mads Østberg: “Excluding last year, I have competed in this rally every year since 2010, so I know the course well and I have always enjoyed the variety of the stages, even though it adds to the challenges. I will have to get accustomed to driving on this surface again, but I know I can count on the team’s immense experience on tarmac and at this rally in particular. I have had two days of testing with the C3 WRC to work through all the road profiles I will be facing, so I am hoping for a top-five finish.”
Number of appearances at the event: 7
Best result: 4th (2012)
2018 RALLY DEUTSCHLAND KEY FIGURES
18 special stages, covering a total of 325.76km
9th and 10th are Mads Østberg and Craig Breen’s respective positions in the Day 1 running order
12 consecutive wins for Citroën at Rally Deutschland: Philippe Bugalski (not in WRC) in 2001 (Xsara WRC), Sébastien Loeb from 2002 to 2006 (Xsara WRC), and from 2007 to 2010 (C4 WRC), Sébastien Ogier in 2011 (DS3 WRC), Sébastien Loeb again in 2012 (DS3 WRC), and Dani Sordo in 2013 (DS3 WRC).
A RALLY, A CHALLENGE
The Baumholder military base, aka the Panzerplatte
Some of the timed sections which feature in the championship have acquired legendary status, one of which is the Panzerplatte. Running through the Baumholder military base, on concrete roads lined with hinkelsteins - imposing kerbstones normally used to keep tanks on the right track - this stage has often proved decisive in the past.
Due to the Panzerplatte’s length (38.57km this year) and the nature of its bumpy and abrasive surface, expert driving skills are required to perform well and avoid getting a flat tyre. The task is made even more difficult by the fact that the road is rarely uniformly dry.
While the Baumholder stage has been shortened by some 3.5km this year, the super special stage known as the Panzerplatte Arena, has seen its distance more than tripled to 9.43km, and will therefore only be contested twice, compared with three times in 2017.