FIA WRC ADAC RALLY DEUTSCHLAND 2015
RALLY IS NOT A CRIMEText and Photos: Reinis Babrovskis
The curse of VW was broken as the Volkswagen Motorsport claimed a 1-2-3 at the FIA WRC ADAC Rally Deutschland 2015, becoming the first German manufacturer to claim a victory on the home soil. Sebastien Ogier, Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen were unstoppable throughout the weekend dominating all but 1 stage, leaving the Citroen, Ford and Huyndai drivers behind.
Rally is not a crime; these men are not your typical automotive hooligans, instead they are some of the bravest men and women to walk the planet Earth ready to tackle the roughest and fastest roads in the world. 12 events, 4 WRC teams and millions of supporters – this is World RALLY Championship.
Round 9 of the 2015 FIA WRC Championship took us to Germany for a full asphalt rally. The picturesque European country is bursting with forests, rivers and vineyards, providing some of the most spectacular stages on the calendar. First ran in 1982 the German Rally was part of the European Championship; from year 2000 the event has been based around the western city of Trier and is an integral part of the World Rally Championship since 2002.
The rally has been dominated by Citroen in the past where the legend Sébastien Loeb secured nine victories for the manufacturer. The stages are very fast and mistakes are not forgiven. 2015 ADAC Rally Deutschland consisted of 21 stages that were ran over 3 days on mixed surfaces of tarmac, concrete and bricks. The rally HQ and Service Park were located in Trier. Both rally and cars received some changes in 2015 ADAC Rally Deutschland - the gruesome Panzerplatte tests were now running back-to-back on Saturday whilst the complicated Bosenberg stage in Saarland’s countryside was back on the Rally since 2011.
The German rally is typically the first tarmac rally on the season calendar, so the cars get a full transformation from the gravel set ups. The 300bhp 1.6 turbocharged WRC cars received a lowered and stiffer suspension, bigger wheels and narrower tire profile thus allowing a bigger brake set up.
The circuit racing-like set up of the cars transforms the handling of these machines completely, requiring great concentration and skill from the drivers. The teams were also offered the all new Michelin tarmac tires that seemed to have coped with the variety of surfaces perfectly. The mixed stage surfaces however meant it made the job of the mechanics and engineers a nightmare as the setup often had to compromised balancing between stability and grip.
The weather plays a major role in any rally, but more so in Germany due to the high speed nature of the rally. Making sure the teams don’t get caught out with the tire choice is crucial. Rain has been a recurring visitor of nearly every German rally since it joined the WRC; however, this year we got lucky and we were blessed with blue skies and temperatures of +30c and above.
HQ AND CEREMONIAL START
As soon as the plane had landed it was time for us to visit the Rally HQ in Trier. The service park was full of spectators keen to see the WRC cars in the full tarmac spec for the first time this season, and my word the Rally cars looked absolutely fantastic. The lowered suspension, bigger wheels and small profile tires transform the design of these cars completely.
Amongst the WRC and WRC2 cars we were able to get a glimpse of the stunning Porsche 911 and many other beautify rally cars being prepared for the rally. At the back of the service park a large area was devoted to the hugely popular Opel Adam Academy.
As usual the Service Park was buzzing with people, trade stands and static displays from various manufacturers like Skoda etc. Rally fans were able to get a sneak preview of the upcoming WRC 5 game and try it for themselves, whilst Michelin stand offered a full hydraulic simulator for that extra realism.
After spending a good few hours at the service it was time to rush to the ceremonial start ramp located in front of the magnificent Porta Nigra Roman city gate which was an artwork on its own. Packed with thousands of fans the place was rally heaven. Whilst waiting for their take on the ramp various drivers walked the grid providing autographs, having chats and getting their photos taken with their fans.
HOW THE ACTION UNFOLDED
Friday tests were located in the Eifel region close to the Luxembourg and Belgian Borders where the twisty stages were filled with hairpin turns and the iconic backdrops of vineyards and Mosel River. With the first sunlight thousands of spectators gathered at the SS1 to celebrate the annual launch of Rally Deutschland.
Ott Tannak hadn’t done a tarmac event in a WRC car for 3 years and found it tricky. On the very first stage of Leg 1 a misjudged braking point led to his car sliding into an armco barrier, but luckily the young Estonian was able to continue the event unharmed.
Ulsterman Kris Meeke hoped for a strong result but sadly on Stage 6 of the day 1 his Citroen DS3 hit a patch of gravel and skidded into a kerb damaging the compression strut and his hopes for a podium were gone. The luck has certainly not been on the Northern Irish man’s side this year.
Mads Ostberg seemed to approach the rally with caution providing very average times with no risks taken, yet maintaining his name on the leaderboard meant he was there to pick up the valuable championship points. He admitted the VW were just too quick on the tarmac.
A great start of the rally for Stephane Lefebvre in his first outing in the WRC Citroen DS3. The frenchman stuck to the team orders and kept out of trouble on Leg 1 showing great pace.
The young welshman Elfyn Evans behind the wheel of the Ford Fiesta RS experienced some handbrake issues thus losing time out the morning loop.
This was another rally that the Czech driver Martin Prokop will want to forget as his hopes of a strong result came to a sudden stop when his Ford Fiesta RS hit a tree on the Friday afternoon loop.
Leading Hyndai driver Thierry Neuville admitted he wasn't happy with the slippery conditions, but managed to demonstrate a good pace on day 1.
Germany proved yet another hard challenge for the Polish start Robert Kubica as a late engine change earned him a five minute penalty before the start of the rally and the hard push throughout Leg 1 left room for mistakes - on Stage 7 his The Ford Fiesta RS went off into the vines and the team lost five minutes.
Hayden Paddon admitted returning to asphalt was "a bit like going back to School", since the kiwi man has been doing gravel runs up to now.
For the Dutchman Kevin Abbring it was his third event with the Hyundai team and he admitted he was struggling with the car op the opening stages. Replacement differential improved the things but the young driver still struggled for confidence.
So it was the VW boys at the front in 1-2-3 and a battle between Sebastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala was on with Mikkelsen sitting in a safe third.
Day 2 started with yet another beautiful day and the spectators were ready for some more action.
Day 2 witnessed some battles between the Hyundai's Sordo and Neuville where Sordo took the lead in the end, finishing 4th overall. Drama for Robert where the notorious Panzerplatze introduced him to the deadly hinkelsteins and his rally was over.
The young Welshman Evans finished 6th while Mads finished 7t and the victory for the VW trio.
Fastest stage timesOgier 14, Latvala 6, Evans 1
Final Results:1. Ogier/Ingrassia FRA/FRA Volkswagen Polo R WRC 3:35.49,5 hrs.
2. Latvala/Anttila FIN/FIN Volkswagen Polo R WRC + 23,0 sec.
3. Mikkelsen/Floene NOR/NOR Volkswagen Polo R WRC + 1:56,6 min.
4. Sordo/Marti ESP/ESP Hyundai i20 WRC + 2:09,3 min.
5. Neuville/Gilsoul BEL/BEL Hyundai i20 WRC + 2:23,8 min.
6. Evans/Barrit GBR/GBR Ford Fiesta RS WRC + 2:52,1 min.
7. Østberg/Andersson NOR/SWE Citroën DS 3 WRC + 3:12,5 min.
2015 FIA World Rally Championship - Standings after 9 of 13 rounds1. Ogier 207 points
2. Latvala 114 points
3. Mikkelsen 98 points
4. Østberg 90 points
5. Neuville 80 points
6. Evans 61 points