In Petter Solberg's latest exclusive column on Crash.net, the Ford World Rally Team man looks back on Rallye Deutschland, where it all went wrong in Panzerplatte 1...
Germany didn't end how I wanted it to, but we have to take the positives away from the event. To be lying second at the end of the first day, so close to a driver who has only ever been beaten in Germany once, was massively encouraging. The performance of the Ford Fiesta RS WRC on asphalt was fantastic. It was just such a shame that in the end I couldn't join Jari-Matti [Latvala – my team-mate] on the podium, because that would have been a great result for the whole team and a perfect reward for everybody's hard work. I have to hold my hands up, though, because it was my mistake on Saturday and I'm very sorry for that.
Germany was always going to be quite a tough event, as it was my first outing with the Fiesta RS WRC on a 'pure' tarmac round. I'd only had very limited asphalt running in Monte-Carlo at the beginning of the year and just a few days' testing, so I was not 100 per cent confident going into the rally. But in terms of my performance and the performance of the car over the weekend, I was very happy and I think that bodes very well for France and Catalunya later in the season.
Indeed, the first day went really well in Trier and I must admit, it was a nice surprise to end the opening leg in second and so close to Sébastien Loeb, because as I explained, I was not 100 per cent sure how my form in the Fiesta RS WRC would be on asphalt. We were very competitive though, and set top-four times in every single stage, which was massively encouraging.
Day two started in the same way and I was second-quickest in the first two stages, just two seconds behind Loeb in Peterberg 1. Then though, we came to Arena Panzerplatte 1 and it all went wrong...
Basically, it was a long left-hand corner that tightened, and the back end of the car just started to get away from me. I was unable to catch the slide, and the next thing I knew, there was a loud 'bang' at the right-rear. The wheel didn't actually come off straightaway and we thought initially we might be able to continue, but we realised a few kilometres later that the damage was too great.
It was so frustrating, as I was driving within myself and it was the first mistake I had made all rally, but it was a costly one.
On Sunday we re-started and while I was quickest in Dhrontal 2, to be honest, I wasn't really pushing. The main objective was just to get to the end of the rally and go for the extra points on the Power Stage, but I made a couple of small mistakes there and that was that. The only consolation was that we got a few manufacturers' points, but it could have been – and should have been – a lot better.
Still, as ever the event itself was good and I always enjoy it – and this year was no exception despite how things turned out.
It has a great atmosphere, enjoyable stages and unique challenges. All but one of the 15 stages was run in a new configuration this year and it certainly made the rally a little bit different. However, once we had recced the stages and got used to them being in the opposite direction to usual, it wasn't too much of a problem.
Now our focus switches to Wales Rally GB and I cannot wait. Rally GB has always been one of my favourite events on the calendar, and it will be interesting to see how different the conditions are there this year with it being held in September rather than November.
We are not sure at this stage however, how much of a difference that will make. The roads may be drier and faster with the rally being earlier in the year, but we won't really know until we get out there on the recce and see what the weather is like. I hear the British summer hasn't been very good, so it may still be very wet and muddy! It was nice and sunny when I was over in the UK recently for Rallyday 2012 at Castle Combe (great event, by the way), but who knows what it will be doing in a few weeks' time in Wales...
We will be testing before the trip to Cardiff and the principal goal will be to perfect the set-up we will run there.
I have won Wales Rally GB more times than any other event in the WRC, and I cannot tell you how determined I am to add another victory to that tally this year. I have only one target – and that is to win.
Until next time, Petter Solberg
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