The 23rd Rallye Deutschland takes place this coming weekend - the tenth round out of sixteen in the 2004 FIA World Rally Championship.

Germany will also play host to the fifth round in the 2004 FIA Production Car WRC.

A three-day event [starting 'proper' on Friday], the Rally comprises three legs, 411.06 competitive kilometres and 24 stages.

There will be a single service area at Bostalsee, which is 60km from Trier, and the winning car is expected to cross the finish ramp at 1530hrs on Sunday 22 August.

Special notes:

With the last seven WRC rounds contested on gravel, Rallye Deutschland is the first of three asphalt events scheduled for the remainder of the season. Based in the countryside around Trier, the oldest city in Germany, the event presents crews with some of the most specialist stages in the Championship.

Stage conditions vary between the narrow vineyard roads of the Mosel region with its long, fast straights featuring 90-degree corners, the smooth roads of Saarland and the bumpy, rough concrete tracks of the Baumholder military ranges. Designed for tank training exercises, the army roads are unlike anything else in the Championship. Flanked by huge, unforgiving concrete kerbstones, the wide asphalt sections are abrasive and dirty, while a fine dusting of sand makes them exceptionally slippery when wet.

With this year's rally scheduled in August, when weather conditions are likely to be changeable, the event's mix of road surfaces is expected to prove a tough challenge for drivers and tyres alike.

FIA World Rally Championship news:

Sebastien Loeb leads the World Rally drivers' championship, 22 points ahead of Petter Solberg. Citroen meanwhile head the constructors' - 26 points ahead of Ford, while Subaru are a further 19 adrift in third.


News from the Manufacturers' teams:
555 Subaru World Rally Team:

[Petter Solberg, car #1 and Mikko Hirvonen, car #2.]

Like most WRC competitors, Petter Solberg has contested the event just twice before. At a crucial point in his 2004 title campaign, he's hoping to repeat the smooth surface form that helped him win in Corsica last year. Driving the second Subaru, Finnish driver Mikko Hirvonen has contested the event only once before. The young Finn will be aiming to demonstrate a good pace and gain more points.

Citroen Total:

[Sebastien Loeb, car #3 and Carlos Sainz, car #4]

Citroen has tested extensively in preparation for the Rallye Deutschland. Between the Argentina and Finland rallies Carlos Sainz and Sebastien Loeb put the Xsara WRC through its paces over the roads of the Mosel Valley vineyards as well as across the Baumholder ranges. Loeb was delighted with the progress they made.

"I was very pleased with the Xsara I drove during pre-event testing and I am happy with the work that has been done," he noted. "The car was easy to drive and nicely balanced. I felt confident, and that is important given how delicate the conditions can be. For once, being first on the road during the opening leg shouldn't be a handicap. We have some good cards in our hand and we don't have our backs to the wall, which means we can choose our own tactics. I feel confident!"

Marlboro Peugeot Total:

[Marcus Gronholm, car #5 and Cedric Robert, car #6].

Peugeot will field three cars in Germany, for Marcus Gronholm, Cedric Robert and Freddy Loix, the latter however will not be eligible to score manufacturer points.

Robert is looking forward to making his debut with the factory team. "I am delighted to be driving a 307 in Germany," he said. "The car has competed in only one asphalt round so far, the Monte Carlo Rally. I am convinced it has the potential to win and its performances on the loose are a good pointer."

Ford Motor Company:

[Markko Martin, car #7 and Francois Duval, car #8.]

Before returning from the Neste Rally Finland, Francois Duval and Stephane Prevot tested the HANS (Head and Neck Support) system which the FIA plans to introduce to the championship in 2005.

"Formula 1 drivers wear it for about 90 minutes without having to move out of the car. But in rallying you take the helmet on and off and it's not easy to do. To change the tyre pressure between stages with the HANS on or to stop and change a puncture in a stage would be very difficult," said Duval.

The team meanwhile has been re-named and re-branded. It is now known as BP-Ford World Rally Team, with an new logo which adorns the team's vehicles and service park furniture, reflecting the close partnership between Ford and BP.

The Rallye Deutschland has huge significance to Ford. The company's European headquarters in Cologne are less than 200km from Trier and the route passes close to Ford's factory at Saarlouis, the home of the Focus.

Mitsubishi Motor Sports:

[Gilles Panizzi, car #9 and Daniel Sola, car #10.]

Daniel Sola will partner Gilles Panizzi this weekend in the second Mitsubishi. This is the team's last appearance of the year, before they 'modify' their 2004 programme to concentrate solely on testing for next season. They will miss the final six events.

"It will be interesting for us to go to Germany because it gives us the opportunity to assess our level on tarmac," commented the team's technical director Mario Fornaris. "Since Monte Carlo we have progressed and we know the car is better, but it's important to have a benchmark against our rivals."

Production Car WRC:

The Production WRC resumes this weekend, following round four in Argentina back in July, when Daniel Sola initially took the honours, until being disqualified last week for using a clutch that did not conform to the regulations. Jani Paasonen thus took the 10 points, and the win, lifting him to the top of the drivers' series with 25 points. Manfred Stohl is second with 18, while Sola drops to third on 16. Toshi Arai, Alister McRae and Niall McShea complete the current top six, on 15, 14 and 11 points respectively.

Other significant entries:

Skoda will take part this weekend with the Fabia WRC, driven by Toni Gardmeister, Armin Schwarz and 'guest' driver, Roman Kresta.

Other notable entries include Freddy Loix (who will not be nominated by Peugeot for manufacturer points), Daniel Carlsson, Anthony Warmbold, Armin Kremer, Jussi Valimaki, Alister Ginley and Andrew Nesbitt.

Schedule:

The rally will again use a mix of stages in the Mosel vineyards, on the Baumholder military land and in Saaland and each leg contains a blend of tests from the different regions.

After a ceremonial start in the historic heart of Trier on Thursday evening, the opening leg is based primarily among the vineyards of the Mosel.

Leg two is the longest of the rally with the bulk of the competitive distance on Baumholder while the final leg is centred in Saaland.

Each day comprises two identical loops of stages, the second and third legs ending with a spectacular super special stage around the streets of St Wendel. Drivers tackle 411.06km of competition in a route of 1075.77km.

The rally is one of the most compact of the year and almost 40% of the route is competitive.

Did you know?

Rallye Deutschland is the only WRC event held in central Europe and it is especially popular with fans. Last year more than 270,000 flocked to the stages to watch their favourite drivers in action and this year should be no different.

Hot tip:

Sebastien Loeb has won the event for the last two years running - look no further for the favourite!

Last year:

Last year's event was won by Sebastien Loeb, with Marcus Gronholm second and Richard Burns third. There were five significant retirements, including Tommi Makinen, Didier Auriol, Jani Paasonen and Toni Gardemeister.