And that’s despite the Red Bull Skoda driver insisting asphalt is his least favoured surface. While some of his performances in the distant past would have added weight to that argument, the Finn has become a revelation on sealed-surface events in recent years, particularly in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, where he has taken a brace of impressive Tarmac victories this season.
“I want to go rally-by-rally and not think to the points,” said the 30-year-old. “We have done quite a few rallies, but there are still two new Tarmac rallies coming for me, which can make it quite difficult. I would like to win one of those, but the competition will be tough.”
Hanninen’s co-driver, Mikko Markkula, is slightly more optimistic heading to Germany. Speaking following their SWRC victory on Neste Oil Rally Finland last month, Markkula said: “This year the Tarmac rallies have been strong for us and so why not in Germany and the rest of the rallies?”
Trailing Hanninen in the table is Martin Prokop, the leading Ford Fiesta S2000 runner. The Czech finished second in the SWRC category on Rallye Deutschland last season and has plenty of asphalt knowledge. He has stated a win in Germany is vital to his title hopes.
“Juho is starting to edge away from me in the championship standings so I need to win this rally to still be in with a chance of taking the title,” said Prokop, who prepared for the event with a test in his homeland last week.
Ott Tanak is third in the table but seemingly out of contention for the crown following his crash on Rally Italia Sardegna, where he inflicted substantial damage to his Fiesta when he rolled out of the lead battle on the second day of the gravel event.
“This will be my second time in Germany so, for sure, it will help that I know some of the stages from last year,” said the Estonian driver, who is planning to test in Germany today, Monday. “Last year’s event was the first asphalt rally that I had competed in. As always, I want to gain as much experience as I can but I will be looking to finish on the podium.”
Bernardo Sousa is fourth in the standings following a frustrating showing on the previous round in Finland where a series of mechanical issues held him back. The Portuguese is two points clear of local hero Hermann Gassner Jr, who has enjoyed a solid, if unspectacular, start to his SWRC career in the second Red Bull Skoda.
Estonian teenager Karl Kruuda, in a Skoda, is sixth in the table one point behind Gassner and 17 clear of Hungarian Fiesta driver Frigyes Turan.
Nasser Al-Attiyah is back on SWRC duty after not nominating Rally Finland as one of his scoring events. However, two non-scores on the first two rounds have prevented the Qatari from mounting a title bid in his Barwa World Rally Team Fiesta.
With Eyvind Brynildsen unable to compete in Germany due to the hefty damage he inflicted to his PS Engineering Skoda in a crash in Finland, Albert Llovera is the only other SWRC regular competing in Germany in his Abarth Grande Punto.
German Felix Herbold, driving a Fiesta S2000, has been nominated as a wildcard entrant by the event organisers and will be eligible for championship points.