As we rev up towards the daunting military roads of ADAC Rallye Deutschland (18 - 21 August), we remember what happened when the WRC crews tackled the infamous hinkelsteins in 2015.
This time 12 months ago, Sébastien Ogier closed to within striking distance of a third FIA World Rally Championship crown, as Volkswagen Motorsport celebrated a popular podium lockout on home soil.
Friday 21 August
Ogier set the early pace as he won seven of the eight speed tests on the opening day in the Mosel vineyards. Admitting to pushing hard on the German asphalt, the Frenchman overhauled Volkswagen team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala – who had led at the end of the morning loop – during a dominant afternoon to carry a 9.5sec advantage into the second leg.
Latvala lacked confidence in the increasingly slippery conditions, while Andreas Mikkelsen in the third Volkswagen Polo R completed the top three, albeit 34.9sec adrift of the lead. The Norwegian initially found himself under threat from Citroën’s Kris Meeke, until the Ulsterman lost more than nine minutes after breaking a front left compression strut.
That promoted the internecine scrap between Hyundai’s Dani Sordo and Thierry Neuville to a fight for fourth, the pair repeatedly trading places and concluding the day split by just 1.9sec in the Spaniard’s favour. Elfyn Evans overcame handbrake dramas to round out the top six for M-Sport World Rally Team.
Saturday 22 August
Ogier turned the screw on day two as he broke Latvala’s resolve with a brace of sensational runs through the famous Panzerplatte military tank training tracks to extend his advantage to 33.8sec.
He mastered the smooth asphalt and broken concrete with aplomb, steering clear of the huge hinkelstein kerbstones designed to keep tanks in line. With six fastest times to his credit, he reflected that it had been a ‘perfect’ day.
Despite claiming the other three stages, the Finn conversely cut a deflated figure and was at a loss to explain his comparative lack of speed. Mikkelsen held station in an increasingly distant third whilst Sordo and Neuville’s see-saw duel continued, the Spaniard belying gearchange woes to regain the initiative by 9.5sec after the Belgian had briefly moved in front. Evans remained sixth.
Sunday 23 August
Ogier paced himself to his sixth success of the season on the short final blast through the Mosel vineyards, finishing 23sec ahead of Latvala to join Marcus Grönholm in equal-second place on the all-time WRC winners list.
With Mikkelsen retaining third, the result marked an emotional 1-2-3 for Volkswagen, ending a home round jinx with Germany being the only event in which the manufacturer had never previously triumphed.
Sordo held off Neuville to secure his best result for almost a year in fourth, with Evans – the only non-Volkswagen driver to win a stage on Sunday – hanging on to sixth.