Citroen privateer Urmo Aava notched up his third points' finish of the season on the Rallye Deutschland last weekend and in the end he only narrowly missed out on seventh.

Aava went into the final day in his C4 WRC car 23.7 seconds behind Henning Solberg, but thanks to two sixth quickest times and two sevenths, he cut that gap right back to head into the last test with the deficit reduced to just 4 seconds.

While it was always going to be tough to overhaul the Norwegian over the short 4.37 kilometre Circus Maximus Trier SSS, the Estonian once again beat the Ford man, although it wasn't quite enough, and he finished 1.6 seconds adrift of P7.

Speaking at the finish Aava had mixed thoughts, although with 16 top-ten stages times from 18, including one fifth best effort on day 2, there was much to be positive about.

Indeed while he did have some dramas - including hitting a tree in SS7 and knocking off his rear spoiler - as this was his first ever tarmac event in a World Rally Car, he definitely didn't disgrace himself.

"There was a slight chance to catch Henning in SS19 and make up one place. But in the end we finished 1.6 seconds behind," said the ex-Suzuki JWRC man.

"I am quite happy, but we still have to find the right speed for the corners. I still have to learn a lot about the car and the tyres too. [Overall] my first tarmac rally with a World Rally Car has been mixed. Finding the right set-up for this rally requires vast experience."

Conrad Rautenbach meanwhile was 13th at the finish in the sister PH Sport-run C4 WRC. He spent the event working on the set-up of his Citroen, and was out to gain as much experience as possible ahead of the WRC's two other remaining asphalt rallies in Catalunya and Corsica in October.

"I've learned an enormous amount about the car on this rally. It's been one of the toughest of the season. Our pace has improved consistently through the event and we haven't made any mistakes - I've got to be really happy with that," reflected the 2007 FIA African Rally champion.

"It was a big learning curve and the way the car works on asphalt is really different to gravel. I thought I had a handle on that from the test we did before the event, but it's only once you get into the competition that you really get is sussed.

"The centre differential settings are absolutely vital to get right here - and that was one of the biggest things I had to get used to. Our car was running with Sebastien's [Loeb] settings and obviously Seb has a great deal of confidence in the car on these roads. Essentially, you have to turn into the corner with understeer and then stay hard on the throttle to get it to oversteer. Getting that commitment took me a while, I felt I was fighting the car some times, but by the end of the event I was really enjoying it.

"Germany is not really a drivers' rally though, it's not an event where you can get a really good flow through the stages. It's just chop, chop, chop, corner, corner, corner. You need to be precise all the time. The minute you start pushing too hard, you get messy in the corners, the car slides and you'll be losing time. We got caught like that in a couple of stages. The key is to have patience with this rally.

"There was only one scare during this rally - and that came before the stages on Sunday morning. David [Senior - my co-driver] and I went to get the car from parc ferme as usual, but it wouldn't start. That's really rare these days, but it was a bit of a panic when I thought I might have to miss out on a day in the C4 WRC. We pushed the car out and the boys got it sorted. It turns out the battery had been damaged in a heavy landing.

"Now, though, we go from an event which isn't really one for the drivers to the ultimate drivers' rally: New Zealand. I can't wait to get down there to start throwing the Citroen into those cambers."


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