The WRC heads to Germany this weekend as Sebastien Ogier looks to get back on track following a few disappointing results.
The Volkswagen driver still leads the standings thanks to his stunning consistency at the start of the season and nurses a 45 point lead over team mate Andreas Mikkelsen. However this current season is being lauded as one of the most open and competitive in over a decade.
With six different drivers winning rallies this season, including Ogier, Mikkelsen, Jarri-Matti Latvala, Hyundai’s Hayden Paddon and Thierry Neuville, and Citroen’s Kris Meeke. The latter won last time out in Finland, and along with co-driver Paul Nagle, they became the first British duo to conquer the famous event.
With only five rounds left to go due to the Chinese round being cancelled on safety concerns, Germany poses a much bigger significance than first thought. Famous for its tarmac and asphalt stages and the notorious concrete barriers, known locally as Panzerplattes, lining the roads and not taking any prisoners.
Rally Deutschland joined the WRC calendar in 2002 and is located in Trier, with a mix of vineyard and military area stages, it’s known as one of the most difficult asphalt events of the calendar. The event was dominated by Citroen and Sebastien Loeb from 2002-2014.
The imperious Frenchman took nine victories here, with Ogier and Dani Sordo both taking wins before Thierry Neuville broke the streak in his Hyundai. There’s been a Rally Deutschland since 1982 and it was part of the European Championship.
Neuville is looking forward to what he describes as his home rally, saying: “Rallye Deutschland is the highlight of the season for me. It’s like my home rally, very close to the Belgian border and a lot of supporters come down with lots of Belgian flags. So it’s the rally we are most waiting for in the season, and it’s an event we have always been competitive at. We got our first victory there so I am looking forward to it.”
Ott Tanak, whose best result this season is second on Rally Poland, said he will be ‘pushing as hard as possible’ to get a good result. “I like Tarmac and also enjoy the stages in Germany – you can have different weather on every stage in a loop so it’s always a compromise. We’ve shown how our pace can be on gravel this year and hopefully we will have the right conditions next week. Either way, I will be pushing as hard as possible for a solid result,” the Estonian said.
Championship leader Ogier will be keen to get back to winning ways after a poor couple of gravel events in Poland and Finland. He said: “I always look forward to the Rally Germany, but slightly more than usual this time around. Finally, Julien and I have a realistic chance of fighting for the win under our own steam again after the difficult gravel rallies.
“I am highly motivated and very keen to repeat the success of last year. The Rally Germany is also Volkswagen’s home event and so the whole team wants to deliver a particularly good performance in front of the fans,” the reigning champion added.
With the rally about to get underway in Germany, can Ogier get back to winning ways having not won since Sweden back in round two? Or will one of the chasing pack cut into his lead?
Sebastien Loeb (2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012)
Sebastien Ogier (2011, 2015)
Dani Sordo (2013)
Thierry Neuville (2014)