16 Aug 08
This year will be the third time that leading British co-driver Scott Martin will tackle Rally Deutschland. And to give us an idea of what he and his Stobart team partner Matthew Wilson will be up against, he’s given wrc.com his expert opinion on each of the event’s 19 stages.
Here’s what Scott reckons about Saturday’s stages:
Saturday’s stages fall into two distinct categories; the open countryside Saarland roads, and those within the military area of Baumholder. We do two loops of four stages, separated by a 30-minute service in Trier. The first three stages are the Saarland ones, slightly south of Baumholder. Most of the stage mileage here is on narrow single track roads, which are tree-lined in places and very tricky if it’s damp. After those three we’ve got a 15-minute remote service, which provides an opportunity to change tyres and alter the car set-up ready for the weird and wonderful Panzerplatte stage which follows.
SS7/SS11 Bosenberg 19.12km
This stage is exactly the same as it was last year but run in reverse. This spices it up a little bit but also means it fits the rally route better. For the route this year we drive all the way down to St Wendell and then steadily work our way back north to Trier. Bosenberg is fairly flat and there are open fields either side of the road, although it does go under the tress in places. If there’s rain overnight, the asphalt underneath the trees stays damp for a long time and the surface is extremely slippery. Remember the TV footage of Marcus Gronholm spinning his Peugeot 307 off into the bushes? That’s the sort of thing that can happen here. Compared to Friday, there are no vines and far fewer hairpins and junctions, but there’s more chance of mud on the road - especially on a couple of corners near the end. This year organisers have added a few hay bale chicanes to slow us down at certain points, too.
SS8/SS12 Freisen/Westrich 16.16km
This stage was used in 2006 but not in 2007. It has a similar character to Bosenberg - including the hay bale chicanes - but has a few more high-speed sections. There are a few square junctions lined with hinkelstein - the enormous concrete blocks - too. But even though the hinkelstein let you know you’re in the military region, this isn’t anything like Panzerplatte. The road gets very narrow towards to the finish and there’s a lot of gravel on the last couple of kilometres.
SS9/SS13 Birkenfelder Land 14.22km
Not used in 2007, this is the last of the Saarland stages, and has a very strange road surface. If it’s damp or wet it’s very slippery on the braking areas. There seems to be a sort of dust or light gravel on the road which makes it especially slippery in the wet. One thing to look out for is a very deceptive corner about 2km before the finish. It’s a fourth gear corner that’s open, and not particularly tight, but there’s nothing but fields either side and so it’s difficult to judge the right speed.
SS10/SS14 Arena Panzerplatte 30.38km
After the remote service we head into the tank training road network for Panzerplatte - the longest stage of the rally. There’s nothing else like it in the WRC. The concrete road is so abrasive there’s a constant vibration through the car, like a loud buzz, which makes it strange straight away. The roads were designed for tanks, so they’re wide - probably three car widths in places - and there’s a famous jump under a Red Bull inflatable arch. Last year the jump was in the first 2km, and Barry Clark and I went highest - in a Fiesta! - but this time they’ve altered a few junctions so it’s at about the 14km mark. Panzerplatte isn’t the fastest section of the rally because the numerous junctions slow you down. Last year there were about a hundred but this year there are 82. On such a grippy surface the constant acceleration and braking makes it pretty tiring in the car - and it’s hard on the clutch and brakes too. The hinkelstein that line the road mean that if you go off it’s normally the end of your rally. Me and Barry had a big moment last year when we came over a crest about 15 metres off the road and missed them completely. So you can be lucky, but generally if you go wrong you’re in trouble. There are lots of sharp speed bumps too, which won’t be much of a problem for the WRC crews but can be harsh for the two-wheel drive cars.