Citroën wants to confirm how good the C3 WRC is on tarmac
Three rallies in one in tarmac return
The ninth round of the season, Rally Deutschland, sees a return to tarmac after four rallies on gravel. Official Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT representatives Craig Breen – Scott Martin and Mads Ostberg – Torstein Eriksen will do battle with a route that presents a wide range of difficulties as they seek to build on their momentum from Finland.
STARKLY CONTRASTING ROADS
Rally Deutschland competitors face the not insubstantial challenge of performing well on three completely different types of road. This summer meeting, only the second of the season to be run entirely on tarmac, after Corsica, will begin with a day dominated by especially narrow and technically demanding special stages, in which competitors scale and then hurtle down the slopes of the Mosel vineyards. The Saturday will see the WRCs transform into “Panzers” or “tanks” as they pass through the most inhospitable of military bases, while the rest of the rally will be contested amid the fields of the Saarland, where the tarmac inevitably gets pretty dirty. Challenges aplenty, then, and complicated further still by the ever unpredictable weather, but the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT knows the ropes, as its twelve victories here since 2001 (including 11 in the WRC) attest. The team have endeavoured to pass that experience on to Craig Breen and Mads Ostberg, the two drivers competing in this year’s rally, not least during five days of intensive testing on a wide range of special-stage road profiles. Having finished fifth last year in a race that built to a crescendo and ended with a scratch time, the Irishman knows that, in the C3 WRC, he has a car that not only finished second at this venue last time around, but also clocked three fastest times in Corsica, allowing him to show his penchant for the surface. Meanwhile, galvanised by his recent feats in Finland, Mads Ostberg will be aiming to finish in the points, despite his lack of experience on tarmac in the French WRC car.
A TOUGHER FINAL DAY
Though the opening super-special stage on Thursday evening will now take place in St. Wendel, rather than Saarbrücken, the rest of the hostilities will more or less follow the traditional pattern. A few changes have been made here and there, however, including the return of the Stein Und Wein stage, which last featured in 2015, on the Friday, and the inclusion of the Grafschaft stage on the Sunday. This select 29.07 km route through the Mosel vineyards, which will be run twice, should make for a meatier final day of racing before the Bosenberg Power Stage, which also featured in 2015.
WHAT THEY SAID
Pierre Budar, Citroën Racing Team Principal
“After our podium finish in Finland, the aim will be to pick up where we left off and to show, as we did in Corsica, how good the C3 WRC is on tarmac. Of course, the weather will play a crucial role once again, but we have done our utmost to go into this meeting as well prepared as possible, with a big test session that covered the Mosel vineyards, the military base and the Saarland.”
“I’m longing to get back on the tarmac. It’s been a year since I last competed in a 100% tarmac rally. The Saturday stage will definitely be decisive again, with the two runs through the Baumholder military base, but before that, I really hope more than anything that it doesn’t rain on Friday, so that we can start the race in ideal conditions, despite being a long way down the running order. Since our Germany tests at the start of the summer, I have had an extra day of testing in Alsace to get back into the habits you need to drive on tarmac, and I’ll be giving it my all to rediscover the joys of the podium.”
“Except last year, I have competed in this rally every year since 2010, so I know the course pretty well and I have always enjoyed the variety of the stages, even though it makes things difficult! I will have to get to grips with driving on this surface again, but I know I can count on the team’s immense experience on tarmac and at this rally in particular. I have had two days of testing with the C3 WRC to work through all the road profiles I will be facing, so a top-five finish would be a good result for me.”
A RALLY, A CHALLENGE
The Baumholder military base, aka the Panzerplatte
Some of the timed sections featuring in the championship have acquired legendary status. The Panzerplatte is one of them. Running through the Baumholder military base, on concrete roads lined with hinkelsteins, imposing kerbstones normally used to keep tanks on the right track, this stage has often proved decisive in the past. Because of its length (38.57 km this year) and the nature of its surface, which is bumpy and particularly abrasive on the tyres, a great deal of driving skill is required to perform well and avoid getting a flat. And the task is made even more difficult by the fact that the road is rarely uniformly dry. While the Baumholder stage has been shortened by some three and a half kilometres this year, the super special stage known as the Panzerplatte Arena, which goes hand in hand with it, has seen its distance more than tripled to 9.43 km, and will thus be contested only twice, compared with three times in 2017.
Guy Bottlaender, the team’s resident France Sports weather forecaster, shares his memories…
“I remember my first rally with the team back in 2003. It was in Germany, and Seb Loeb won it, beating Marcus Grönholm by 3.6 seconds after an epic battle. When it’s all dry or all wet, it’s ‘easy’. But that year, there were super-localised storms and the weather changed hugely from one stage to the next. Choosing the right tyres was sometimes a real headache, particularly as we didn’t yet have the forecasting technology we have today. Emotions were running high, but the result was particularly satisfying, and that was the start of my adventure with Citroën.It was also where I got the nickname ’Baumholder’!”
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