Drivers face a significant turning point in their season when ADAC Rallye Deutschland (18 – 21 August) hosts the opening all-asphalt round of the FIA World Rally Championship campaign.
After a snow event and six successive gravel rallies, the series returns to asphalt for the first time since January’s season-opening Rallye Monte-Carlo. But winter roads and studded tyres in the French Alps are far removed from the challenge in Germany.
ADAC Rallye Deutschland is a supremely technical encounter. Three distinctly different types of roads span bumpy and narrow Mosel vineyards, smooth country tests in Saarland and the daunting multi-surfaced Baumholder military training tracks.
While the cars are fitted with wider asphalt tyres, bigger brakes and lower suspension ride height to provide better road holding, the drivers must also change their approach.
A precise driving style is imperative as they strive to save vital tenths of a second by taking the neatest racing line through corners. Braking is made later than on loose surfaces due to increased grip, which also imposes bigger physical forces on the crew.
Hyundai’s Dani Sordo, who scored his maiden WRC victory in Germany in 2013, summarised the difficulties.
“It’s a very challenging rally, very fast with lots of different characteristics. It’s exciting to drive in the vineyards, fast but very narrow with lots of hairpins and corners. The military ranges are very tricky, particularly in the wet, so it’s important not to make mistakes,” he said.
Jari-Matti Latvala, who helped Volkswagen to a clean sweep of the podium last year, highlighted the demanding 40.90km Panzerplatte military test as the key to success.
“Panzerplatte is a real toughie,” he said. “There are seven different types of surface on that stage. From new concrete, through old, crumbly concrete, to very coarse concrete, and even asphalt, it really does have everything. You have to get used to these conditions first.
“It is also important to have a good feel for the car when braking on the Panzerplatte stages, since there are many junctions. It is important to have a well-positioned car in the many fast passages. Only then do you feel confident and can really go on the attack.”
Germany countdown: The route
The Trier-based event is the first pure asphalt rally of the season and the crews know that if they want to join or remain in the championship race, they have to switch on their sealed surface skills from the opening kilometre after a series of six gravel rounds.
But Rallye Deutschland isn’t an event where the crews can ease themselves in gently. With three distinctly different types of roads making up the 18-stage route, the ninth round of the championship will once again be supremely technical and demand respect.
After starting on Thursday night with a customary ceremony in front of the historic Porta Nigra gate in Trier, the competitive action will get underway on Friday morning when the crews head into the vineyards of the Moselle region to run on the narrow, dusty and fast service roads that meander through the fruit.
A revised 22km version of the Mittelmosel stage kicks things off before a blast through the slightly longer Moselland test. Both stages are repeated in the afternoon before the day culminates with the brand-new 8.21km circuit stage at Ollmuth. Fans should be able to see most of the action on this spectator-friendly stage thanks to the naturally terraced hillside stands.
Saturday’s leg takes the crews on to the high-speed country roads of the Saarland region.
The 14.7km Freisen-Westrich stage and the Bosenberg test get things underway before the route heads into the military proving grounds at Baumholder.
As in 2015, the iconic hinkelstein-littered Panzerplatte will be the scene of five stages: a 2.87km sprint, which will be run three times, and a 40.8km monster that will be tackled twice – once at the end of the first loop and once at the end of the day.
The third and final day features two stages that will be run twice. The 14.79km Dhrontal stage, famous for its long sequences of hairpin turns, gets things underway on Sunday morning, before the running of the 14.84km Sauertal test near the Luxembourg border.
The second pass of Sauertal will act as the rally-closing Power Stage in 2016, where the crews will be bidding to win extra championship points.