The World Rally championship arrives in Germany this weekend for the first all-asphalt rally of the year.
Based in Trier, Rally Germany – ADAC Rallye Deutschland, officially – takes in 21 stages totalling 232 miles in the Mosel valley, Eifel hills, Saarland countryside and the notorious Baumholder military ranges. There are many different types of road and surface to contend with, plus several hundred junctions and the infamous hinkelsteins waiting to trip up the unwary.
Last time out in Finland, Volkswagen’s Jari-Matti Latvala prevailed in a straight fight with erstwhile championship leader and VW teammate Sebastien Ogier. Both were in contention for the win in Germany last year before crashing out of the lead. In fact, VW has yet to triumph on its home event and will be going all-out to redress the balance.
Though Ogier is, in theory, the Tarmac specialist in the VW team, Latvala finally took his first win on a sealed surface last year and went fastest on the pre-event Shakedown stage yesterday (Wednesday). If he can show the same consistency he did in Finland, Latvala will be fighting it out for the win.
Latvala said: “The win in Finland has given me a massive motivational boost. Things weren’t going very smoothly before that, but at my home rally I showed that I can prevail in a head-to-head battle.”
Last year Thierry Neuville scored both his and the Hyundai team’s first WRC win after first the Volkswagens, then Citroen’s Kris Meeke crashed out of the lead. “We have good memories from Rallye Deutschland last year,” said Neuville. “We are going to try our best so that hopefully we have the same speed as last year and the same confidence.”
Citroen will be pushing equally as hard to claim its first Tarmac win since Rally Germany in 2013, while M-Sport has been testing extensively to make sure the new-spec Ford Fiesta RS is up to the job.
The weather could have a part to play in the outcome of the rally. Some of the roads are slippery anyway, and rain earlier in the week could make matters worse as dirt gets dragged out onto the road from corner cutting. During the rally itself, the forecast is mostly fine and dry, but heavy rain is expected late on Sunday. Tyre choice will be critical.
There is a theoretical possibility that Sebastien Ogier could claim the championship in Germany, his third in succession. It’s only a remote chance, but it would be a brave bet against him taking the 2015 title eventually. Even if Latvala can maintain his upward swing, there is an 89-point deficit to overcome in just four events.
Rally Germany starts on Friday and runs through to Sunday (21-23 August.
Drivers’ Championship top ten after 8 events
- Sebastien Ogier — Volkswagen Motorsport/VW Polo R WRC — 182 points
- Jari-Matti Latvala — Volkswagen Motorsport/VW Polo R WRC — 93
- Mads Ostberg — Citroen Total Aby Dhabi WRT/DS 3 WRC — 84
- Andreas Mikkelsen — Volkswagen Motorsport II/VW Polo R WRC — 83
- Thierry Neuville — Hyundai Motorsport/Hyundai i20 WRC — 70
- Kris Meeke — Citroen Total Aby Dhabi WRT/DS3 WRC — 54
- Elfyn Evans — M-Sport WRT/Ford Fiesta RS WRC — 53
- Ott Tanak — M-Sport WRT/Ford Fiesta RS WRC — 50
- Hayden Paddon — Hyundai Motorsport N/Hyundai i20 WRC — 44
- Dani Sordo — Hyundai Motorsport/Hyundai i20 WRC — 39
Manufacturers’ Championship standings after 8 events
- Volkswagen Motorsport — 257 points
- Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team — 141
- Hyundai Motorsport — 139
- M-Sport World Rally Team — 126
- Volkswagen Motorsport II — 49
- Hyundai Motorsport N — 43
- Jipocar Czech National Team — 43
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By Only Motors