For anyone contesting Rallye Deutschland for the first time, avoiding the concrete hinkelsteins kerbstones, which are designed to keep armoured tanks on the right tracks in the Baumholder military area, is a must. That's just one of the many challenges awaiting Robert Barrable, who is about to make his maiden appearance on Germany's round of the World Rally Championship.
The event marks the 25-year old Irish driver's first tarmac WRC outing in his Tunnock's World Rally Team Ford Fiesta R5. It will also be his first international asphalt rally since the Barum Czech Rally Zlin twelve months ago – where he finished fifth overall on the Czech Republic round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge in a Skoda Fabia S2000.
In preparation for his Rallye Deutschland debut, Barrable took his CA1 Sport-run Fiesta R5 to the Cheviot Hills in Northumberland for an 80-mile tarmac test. Co-driven by Stuart Loudon, he finished first in class and fifth overall on the Tyneside Stages Rally – although far more important than the result was the opportunity to experiment with the car's suspension geometry and ride height settings on the fast and bumpy Otterburn stages.
Having scored WRC-2 points on both his previous outings in Portugal and in Finland this year, Barrable is now hoping to continue his good run in Germany – although he knows the changeable surface and unforgiving nature of the stages makes this one on the most gruelling asphalt rounds of the WRC to do, especially for the first time.
“Rally Germany is going to be a difficult rally, with changeable surface and grip levels on the vineyard and military roads, but I'm really looking forward to the challenge,” he said. “If the weather stays dry, then I'm led to believe it's a brilliant event – but when it rains, a lot of muck gets pulled out onto the roads and it becomes very slippery.
“We had a good test on the Otterburn ranges, which was the first time I'd driven the Fiesta R5 on asphalt and my first tarmac rally of any kind for twelve months. The test went well and I was very happy with the way the car performed on the fast and bumpy roads in Northumberland – and I've no-doubt those eighty miles we did will pay dividends when we arrive in Germany.
“Rally Germany will be another good learning experience and the key to success will be to keep out of trouble – and away from those hinkelsteins. The pace is incredibly quick at World Rally Championship level, so we have to remember that it's our first time in Germany and we're competing against the very best in the world.”