The ninth round of the WRC is the first all-asphalt event of the season and presents an unusual challenge for the crews with its variety of surfaces.
Featuring a complex mix of narrow bumpy vineyard tracks in the Mosel valley and the daunting military training ground of Baumholder, the German stages provide an interesting cocktail of conditions and the ever-present threat of rain makes it one of the most unpredictable events on the calendar.
Based in the Roman city of Trier, in the heart of Germany's wine-making Mosel district, the rally’s location draws spectators from a host of neighbouring countries and upwards of 200,000 people attend each season.
This year, for the first time since its introduction to the WRC calendar in 2002, the rally heads to Cologne for a ceremonial start at the Cologne Cathedral (Roncalliplatz) on Thursday afternoon.
That night, en route back to Trier, competitors will take in two new stages - one in darkness - covering 37.64 competitive kilometres before the competition moves to more familiar territory on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Friday’s action is set amid the Mosel vineyards, with most of the mileage on narrow service roads, littered with hairpin bends that wind between the grapes. Crews will tackle a loop of three stages twice, split by a midday 30-minute service in Trier’s Messepark.
Saturday’s route stays in the vineyards for the opening Stein & Wein but then shifts to the undulating landscape of the northern Saarland region for the short but intense Perterberg.
However, it’s the last of Saturday’s three stages, Arena Panzerplatte that is set to provide the ultimate test. Based in the Baumholder military training area, where giant boulders, known as hinkelsteins, line the route, crews will tackle the 46.54-kilometre monster once in the morning and once again when the stages are repeated after a midpoint service.
Sunday features two passes through another vineyard stage, Dhrontal, run without a service halt. At 24.58km, the stage is 6km shorter than it was last year, but it remains one of the most challenging tests of the rally.
Coming up this week