ADAC Rally Deutschland is, like no other rally so far this year, Citroen territory.
The French manufacturer has an unbeaten record here that stretches back to 2001 when Philippe Bugalski won the then European Championship counter at the wheel of a Xsara T4.
Since 2002, when the rally was added to the WRC calendar, Citroen has remained dominant, taking victory on all ten occasions it has been included [the WRC rotation system meant it wasn’t in 2009].
From his maiden victory on the first WRC event, Sebastien Loeb has claimed nine of Citroen’s ten wins. The only blip in his remarkable record came in 2011 when a puncture handed first place to Loeb’s then Citroen team-mate Sebastien Ogier.
Which brings us to Volkswagen, and the fact that while ADAC Rally Deutschland is, like no other rally so far this year, Citroen territory, it is also, without a doubt, Volkswagen territory.
Rally host city Trier is 500 kilometres from Volkswagen’s home town of Wolfsburg, and after annihilating the competition in the first half of their debut season, ending Citroen’s run of success in their own backyard would go down very well with VW bosses.
We are already guaranteed the end of at least one era this week, because the retiring Loeb has not chosen this rally to be one of the four he will tackle in 2013. So considering his record so far this year, our tip to take top honours instead is Volkswagen’s championship leader Ogier.
The Polo R ace heads to Germany with a commanding 90-point lead over his closest rivals, fellow Volkswagen driver Jari-Matti Latvala and Thierry Neuville of the Qatar M-Sport team, and could wrap up the championship if he pulls a further 22 points clear on Sunday.
But for the Polo R, sealed surface rallying is a big unknown. Still in its debut season, there is no guarantee that the car will be able to challenge the proven Citroen DS3 on its first purely asphalt rally. But the team’s extensive test sessions in July suggest they are as well prepared as ever.
This week Ogier said that because of his championship lead he would try to take a ‘happy-go-lucky’ approach to winning in Germany. But considering the motivations of his rivals, he’ll probably have to try a bit harder.
His own team-mate is just one of the biggest threats. Unusually for a Finn, Latvala is a big fan of the Rallye Deutschland roads, and he was second here last year in a Ford Fiesta RS. Armed with the same machinery as Ogier, he could do one better this time.
Then there are the Citroens. With Loeb absent, the French firm’s hopes ride with Mikko Hirvonen and Dani Sordo.
Hirvonen was third last year in his first competitive outing in Germany in the DS3 and the Finn could go well if the conditions are dry. But his lack of pedigree of asphalt means he’s more likely to finish on the podium rather than on the top step.
Sordo, however, is a tarmac driving specialist, and after a lacklustre season so far, he’s under pressure to do something special this week to justify his place in the squad.
Sordo was a stage winner in Germany last year in a MINI JCW, and ran as high as third until a puncture and later a small off took him out of the competition. With his career options hanging in the balance, expect Sordo to take off like a scalded cat on Thursday afternoon.
Fresh from a confidence-building double podium in Finland, Ford Fiesta RS drivers Thierry Neuville and Mads Østberg are also capable of challenging for victory.
Ostberg secured a career-best fourth in Gemany last year, and is keen to prove his versatility on surfaces other than gravel at a time when driver contracts are being drawn up.
Neuville meanwhile is in sparkling form after his career-best second place in Finland. Running as high as fourth in Gemany last year, the Belgian is eager to add to his 2013 tally of four podiums, as he returns to his favoured road surface and the nearest thing to a home WRC rally.
There are 13 World Rally Cars on the entry list, including Ford Fiesta RS drivers Evgeny Novikov, Nasser Al –Attiyah, Michal Kosciuszko, Martin Prokop and Per Gunnar Andersson.
Andreas Mikkelsen of the Volkswagen Motorsport II team and Abu Dhabi Citroen Total team driver Khalid Al Qassimi round off the WRC runners.
Next page: On this rally last year and tyre facts.