After two high speed gravel rounds, the World Rally Championship returns to the asphalt for the first time since the Monte Carlo Rally way back in January. This rally sees the cars tackling a variety of tarmac surfaces through the vineyards and military roads of Rallye Deutschland and the changeable roads can make for some spectacular action, especially in the wet.
The Rallye Deutschland was first run in 1980 and was a round of the European Rally Championship and German Rally Championships before becoming a regular fixture on the WRC calendar in 2002. Previous winners of this event before it moved to the WRC include Hannu Mikkola, Walter Rohrl and Michele Mouton. In 2001 several top drivers took the opportunity to sample these unique stages, with the late Philippe Bugalski taking the victory in a Citroen Xsara.
Easily the most successful driver at this event is nine-time World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb, who has claimed the victory nine times, including eight victories on the bounce from its inception in 2002 until 2010. In recent years though there have been four victors in as many years, with Loeb taking the 2012 win but Sebastien Ogier and Dani Sordo taking the win in 2011 and 2013 respectively. Last year it was Thierry Neuville who gave the Hyundai i20 its maiden victory from his team-mate Sordo.
The 2015 Rally
For the 2015 edition the rally consists of 21 stages across three days, each of which presents a unique challenge to the drivers. Day one takes place in the Eifel mountain range, close to the Luxembourg border, and a couple of stages in the Mosel vineyards. Day two looks to be the toughest day for the crews as it takes place on the Baumholder military tracks where the surface can change from tarmac to concrete in an instant. It also contains the longest stage of the rally, the 45km of the infamous Panzerplatte stage, where many a driver has fallen foul of the changing surfaces and the concrete blocks that line the stage. The final day consists of just four stages, including the power stage, which sees the cars return to the vineyards. In all the cars will tackle 374km of competitive racing.
Ones to Watch
Coming into this event, depending on results, Sebastien Ogier could wrap up his third consecutive WRC title here and he currently holds a 89 point lead over his team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala. This season the Frenchman has been unstoppable and looks favourite to take another victory here. However the German stages can be unpredictable, as was the case last year, where Thierry Neuville took Hyundai’s maiden WRC victory. The Belgian will once again be looking for another good result here, as will be his team-mate Dani Sordo, who has proved over his career that he has the pace to succeed on tarmac. Kris Meeke is another driver who has shown this season that he can fight at the top and if he avoids incident he looks to be a good bet for the podium at the very least. Slightly further down the entry list, a wildcard bet for a podium could be the likes of Robert Kubica and reigning JWRC champion Stephane Lefebvre, both of whom has shown raw speed on asphalt in the past.
Rewind to 2014
Last year’s event saw the debut WRC victory for the Hyundai team with their i20 as Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo gave them a 1-2 finish. It was initially Sebastien Ogier that led the way in his Volkswagen but an off on stage 6 meant he was forced to retire from the day, before another off on the following day leading to an early bath for the Frenchman. His team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala was then in the clear and had close to a minute lead over the chasing pack going into the final day but crashed on the day’s opener. That in turn meant Kris Meeke led the rally but on the very next stage his hopes went up in smoke after going off and losing a wheel. So it was the Hyundai team who was victorious, with Andreas Mikkelsen giving Volkswagen a small consolation with a podium finish.
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This rally sees a huge entry list for WRC 2, attracting some big names on the continental and international scene. Craig Breen is one driver hungry for success but he faces stiff competition from the likes of ex-WRC works driver Jan Kopecky in a Skoda and hugely experienced drivers in the shape of Nasser Al-Attiyah and Armin Kremer. Young hopefuls Julien Maurin and Esapekka Lappi, who won last time out in Finland, will also be hugely quick on the German stages. With the absence of the Junior WRC category there is just one entrant for WRC 3, Italian Andrea Crugnola in a Renault Clio. Also taking part are the drivers of the Drive DMACK Cup and the new for 2015 RGT Cup, which sees Francois Delacour and Romain Dumas go head to head for honours in their Porsche 997s.
1st: Thierry Neuville
2nd: Sebastien Ogier
3rd: Kris Meeke
WRC-2 Winner: Jan Kopecky
WRC-3 Winner: Andrea Crugnola
Drive DMACK Cup Winner: Tom Cave
RGT Cup Winner: Francois Delacour