The 24th ADAC Rallye Deutschland takes place this coming weekend - the eleventh round out of sixteen in the 2005 FIA World Rally Championship. Germany will also play host to the sixth round in the 2005 FIA Junior WRC.

The rally comprises three legs, 355 competitive kilometres and 19 timed special stages. There will be a single service area at Bostalsee, which is 60km from Trier. The winning car is expected to cross the finish ramp at 1630hrs on Sunday August 28.

Special notes:

After nine consecutive loose surface rallies, Rallye Deutschland is the first all-asphalt event since Monte Carlo, and the first of three such events scheduled for the remainder of the season.

Based in the countryside around Trier, the oldest city in Germany, the rally presents crews with some of the most specialist stages of the year.

The event is made up of two old German national rallies rolled into one, and each leg has a very distinctive character. Stage conditions vary between the narrow vineyard roads of the Mosel region with its long, fast straights and 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 WRC. 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. The military area was the scene of several high-profile accidents in 2004, so this time the route is being re-designed to make it safer.

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.

The only WRC event held in central Europe, Rallye Deutschland is especially popular with fans. Last year more than 200,000 flocked to the stages to watch their favourite drivers in action and this year should be no different.

FIA World Rally Championship news:

Sebastien Loeb continues to lead the World Rally Drivers' championship - having again extended his advantage after finishing second in Finland. The Frenchman is 28 points ahead of Marcus Gronholm and a further 2 points up on Petter Solberg, who is third.

In the Constructors' championship, Peugeot lead Citroen by just 1 point.

News from the Manufacturers' teams:

Citroen Total:

[Sebastien Loeb, car #1 and Francois Duval, car #2]

Citroen ace Sebastien Loeb will be the favourite on the Rallye Deutschland - and not only because he is the 'current master' in the WRC. The Frenchman has won this event for the last three years running and as such it is no surprise then he is keen to repeat that feat this year too.

"I obviously want to win, but that won't make me change my approach to the event," he noted in the build-up. "They say I'm favourite - but I still prefer to be very cautious! None of my previous wins here were easy. Every year I have had a fight on my hands all the way to the finish. And the weather has occasionally complicated things. 'Bosenberg' was very wet last year and it was a case of doing all you could just to keep the car on the road to complete the stage without damage. You risked going off every time you turned the steering wheel. I think they were the most difficult conditions I have ever come across. I therefore feel confident, but I'm also very wary!"

Francois Duval meanwhile finished second in Germany last year - and seventh in 2003. He is hopeful he can again do well, although he believes he will stand a better chance if it is dry, as he has yet to drive the Xsara WRC in the wet on asphalt.

"I would really like to finish on the podium this weekend," said the Belgian. "I did last year and that's a very nice recollection. Given the Xsara's potential, I think a podium is possible. A dry weekend would simplify things. When we did our Deutschland Rally testing, everything went very well but I didn't come across any rain. I therefore have very little experience of the car on wet asphalt. So if it does rain, I won't be as quick. I'm hoping for dry conditions - and a podium."

Ford Motor Company:

[Toni Gardemeister, car #3 and Roman Kresta, car #4.]

Ford completed a four-day pre-event set-up test in Germany last week covering over 1,000 kilometres. Team leader, Toni Gardemeister spent two days testing the Focus RS on wet roads in Baumholder and in the vineyards.

"We had a very wet test and the last forecast I saw predicted dry conditions for the rally, so that's unwelcome for us," said Gardemeister. "But the Focus RS has proved competitive on asphalt, so I'm hoping for a podium finish. We've got a good chance I think. The main aim is to get a good result, pick up some points and move back up the championship order."

Roman Kresta meanwhile drove for two days in mixed weather conditions and often in temperatures of over 30 degrees. He was extremely happy with the performance of his Focus and was given a boost in the build-up when it was confirmed that he will re-unite with his regular co-driver, Jan Tomanek following a six-month break.

"If everything works well, I'm confident that we can have a good result," said Kresta. "It's a difficult event with unpredictable weather but our pre-event test to determine car set-up was fantastic, with mixed weather conditions for two days, similar to those we've experienced in the past on this event. This was the first time we've tested the Focus RS WRC on asphalt and it was an incredible feeling."

Two privately-entered Focus RS WRC cars will also start. Spain's Dani Sola and Xavier Amigo will tackle their second event of the season in a latest-specification car and they will be joined by Antony Warmbold and Michael Orr.

555 Subaru World Rally Team:

[Petter Solberg, car #5 and Stephane Sarrazin, car #6.]

Subaru will enter a three-car team on the Rallye Deutschland. The three Impreza WRC2005's will be driven by Petter Solberg, Stephane Sarrazin and Chris Atkinson. On this event Subaru have opted to nominate Sarrazin instead of Atkinson, as the Aussie has only ever competed on asphalt once before - and never in a World Rally Car.

Team boss, David Lapworth is aware though that things won't be easy and he also knows that Solberg deperately needs a good result if he is to remain in contention for the drivers' title.

"We expect the competition in Germany to be extremely difficult," said Lapworth. "After all, this is the closest Sebastien has to a home event, and with three consecutive wins here it's obviously a strong rally for Citroen too. We'll do all we can though to keep them under pressure. We're now well into the second half of the season and Petter has some work to do if he's to catch Sebastien. We have to get some good results now and Petter's strategy here is to push wherever possible. We need to win some rallies."

Solberg meanwhile is only too conscious of the fact that his title hopes are slipping away.

"At this stage in the season things are tough, and there's a lot of pressure on us but I'm remaining positive," he added. "My aim for the rally is to get on the podium, but of course I'll push for better if that looks possible. We'll have to wait and see how the whole package works on Friday."

Marlboro Peugeot Total:

[Marcus Gronholm, car #7 and Markko Martin, car #8].

Peugeot team leader, Marcus Gronholm believes that they face a tough test this weekend in Germany.

Although Gronholm managed to take his first win of the year three weeks ago on his home event, the Rallye Deutschland is a very different test and unlike in Finland, is on asphalt not gravel. Speaking prior to the event, Gronholm added that the one thing that could help them is rain.

"I sincerely believe it will be difficult to go for victory in Germany," confirmed Marcus. "The terrain will be less favourable to us. If it rains, however, the contest could become a little more open."

Gronholm's co-driver, Timo Rautiainen echoed those thoughts although he took comfort from their form in 2002 and 2003, when they finished on the podium on both occasions.

"It would really take favourable circumstances for us to succeed in winning on asphalt this year," he added. "That said though, the Deutschland Rally and its three very different types of terrain - the Mosel Valley vineyards, the Baumholder military ranges and the twisty Saarland stages - is very different, very specific. We have often been competitive there and a good result is possible, especially if the weather is poor since this would suit our Pirelli tyres better."

Markko Martin, will drive the second 307 as normal. He finished sixth last year in Germany - and came fifth in 2003 and was fourth in 2004.

Mitsubishi Motor Sports:

[Harri Rovanpera, car #9 and Gigi Galli, car #10]

Mitsubishi have surprisingly taken the decision not to opt for tarmac ace Gilles Panizzi this weekend. Instead team leader, Harri Rovanpera will again be joined by Gigi Galli. Team boss, Isao Torii explained that the rationale behind the decision was to 'invest' in Galli for the future, however he is not expecting a particularly strong result.

"It is a long time since the first sealed surface event in Monte Carlo, but we have conducted a good test," stated Torii. "Gilles Panizzi worked with the team during the last tarmac test and seems to have found good solutions for the suspension, transmission, engine management and tyres for these conditions. Germany is a very tricky rally and we were victims of the conditions last year, but there were many top drivers and teams in the same situation. Our priority is to complete the rally with both cars in the points and I have confidence in the team and believe we can achieve this goal."

Rovanpera and Galli also believe it will be tough. "For sure this is not going to be such an easy rally for us because my only experience three years ago was full of problems," added Rovanpaera.

"The stages in the vineyards are difficult with too many junctions and the military roads at Baumholder are very fast, bumpy and can be dangerous. The stages in the Saarland region are better but in general the rally is difficult. Okay, it's important to have the right set-up, but the weather and tyres are also key factors on this event. During our test it was raining a lot, so maybe the work we did could be perfect for Germany! I don't really have too much experience with the Pirelli tyres on tarmac either, but we will see."

Skoda Motorsport:

[Armin Schwarz, car #11 and Alex Bengue, car #12]

Skoda have opted to field three cars - with team leader, Armin Schwarz, joined by Alex Bengue, who last competed for the team at the Monte Carlo Rally and Czech Rally champion, Jan Kopecky.

Skoda boss, Martin Muehlmeier may not have set any specific targets but there is no doubt he considers the event an important one.

"Germany is a big market for the Skoda brand," he stated, "and so this is a very significant rally for us. We saw better reliability in Finland, we have a very strong driver line-up for this rally and we've done a lot of testing in the past few weeks."

Schwarz meanwhile is looking forward to contesting his home event. "This is obviously a very important rally for me," he added. "But although it's my home event I always try to treat it just like any other. The difference in the stages means that you have to adapt very quickly to changing conditions and changing surfaces. It is almost three rallies in one but luckily the Fabia WRC 05 is very flexible."

Skoda also entered the ADAC Eifel-Rallye back in July, to prepare for this event. The ADAC Eifel-Rallye is an all-asphalt event run around the town of Daun, to the north east of Trier where this weekend's Rallye Deutschland is based, something which gave Bengue a vital chance to test the latest asphalt developments of the Fabia WRC 05 in competition ahead of the WRC event.

Junior WRC:

All 13 of the Junior World Rally Championship crews are expected to compete in Germany.

Amongst the front runners will be current championship leader, Guy Wilks, who leads the Junior WRC by 4 points.

"Germany is always a very difficult rally," he said, "but I've got a very good feeling with the Swift and this should hopefully enable us to come away with a good result. The tricky and variable conditions should play to the Swift's strengths, and it's got plenty of power to cope with the fast sections. There's a bit of pressure on me because I'm in the lead of the championship and of course I want to keep it that way. But the pace is so hot that there's very little time for tactics - you are usually flat out from the start!"

Reigning Junior champion and fellow Suzuki driver, Per-Gunnar Andersson will also be in the mix, in the sister Swift, hotly followed by the Kronos Racing Citroen C2 duo of Kris Meeke and Daniel Sordo, the latter of course on something of a high after winning in Finland. Kosti Katajamaki and Urmo Aava could also be contenders, running in Suzuki Ignis'.

"Whether you're running in the WRC or the JWRC, the Deutschland Rally isn't easy for anyone," warned Citroen JWRC manager, Yves Matton. "Even so, we will need to be on the offensive. If Dani and Kris succeed in keeping out of trouble, the C2 Super 1600 could take them clear of [Suzuki duo] Guy Wilks and P-G Andersson, their closest rivals in the JWRC."

Other significant entries:

61 crews have entered the Rallye Deutschland in total. Amongst the other significant runners are: Daniel Sola (Ford Focus WRC 04), Chris Atkinson (Subaru Impreza WRC 2005), Jan Kopecky (Skoda Fabia WRC 05), Antony Warmbold (Ford Focus WRC 04), Manfred Stohl (Citroen Xsara WRC), Xavier Pons (Citroen Xsara WRC), Nicolas Bernardi (Peugoet 206 WRC) and Stepan Vojtech (Peugeot 206 WRC).

Schedule:

The rally retains its tried and tested format with a mix of stages in the Mosel vineyards, on the Baumholder military land and in Saarland, each offering totally different characteristics.

The rally begins with a ceremonial start at Trier's historic Porta Nigra on Thursday evening before Friday's opening leg heads into the tricky vineyard roads.

Leg two is the longest of the rally. The bulk of the competitive distance is in Baumholder and the day ends with a spectacular test around the streets of St Wendel.

The final leg is centred in Saarland, the rally ending with a repeat of the St Wendel test before reaching the finish ceremony back in Trier.

Drivers tackle 355.40km of competition in a route of 1298.25km.

Hot tip:

Sebastien Loeb took his first WRC win in Germany back in 2002, before going on to take the victory again in 2003 and in 2004. Judging by his results to date on the Rallye Deutschland then and his results thus far this season, if he doesn't win it again it will be highly surprising.

Last year:

Sebastien Loeb won the event last year beating Francois Duval by 29.1 seconds. Carlos Sainz completed the podium with Markko Martin and Cedric Robert fourth and fifth respectively. There were five 'works' retirements - including Petter Solberg, Marcus Gronholm, Roman Kresta and Gilles Panizzi.

 

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