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GP Week : Issue 23
>> WRC INSIGHT and covered with dirt. And, finally, there is the Saarland region, where stages are run on orthodox closed, smooth public roads. Trier presents a historic base. It is Germany’s oldest city with a famous landmark, the Porta Nigra. A downtown special stage is run around the spectacular ruin, and this year this will be run as the final stage of the event and televised live. The stage is delightfully named “Circus Maximus,”where cars run in groups but the FIA require that swords should no longer be attached to the wheels of the rally cars ... Social obligations play their part, not least the change from the original timetable to run an extra Porta Nigra stage on Sunday morning, as well as at the end of the event. The morning stage was cancelled to give church attenders a more peaceful time. So it is now only to be run as the final stage. There are not so many novelties each year. Event administrator Waltraud Wunsch explained: “We are fortunate. We have a lot of available stages in our area, and these are rotated year to year.” One change this year is that the event does not also qualify for a national series. Last year the inclusion of these competitors led to difficult discussions about admitting non-homologated cars into the rally. “In fact the championship only increased the entry by 8- 10 competitors,”added Wunsch. “This year we have lost more four-wheel drive competitors who have been deterred by reason of the single tyre supply, either because of conflicting contracts or because they still have perfectly good unused but non-control tyres which the rules prevent them from using,” Over the years the legends of the rally have grown, particularly concerning the “hinkelstein” stones found on the Baumholder stages. These are huge concrete blocks beside the road, intended to prevent military tanks straying from their ordained routes, and are certainly no joke in the Asterix fashion. The damage they are capable of inflicting on high speed rally cars is terrifying, as Petter Solberg can testify. The Citroen legend is another. Since the rally was first mooted as a world championship event Citroen have been unbeaten, and in the past six years we have had the Loeb factor. Loeb’s home base in the Alsace, France, is geographically a lot closer to Trier than the homes of almost all the German drivers! As usual there is a large Dutch contingent entered on the event. Like Germany, a lot of Dutch rallies are on asphalt. Dutch rally journalist Walter Geuzebroek reckons “Rallye Deutschland is our drivers’ chance to see where they stand as drivers with the machines they own. It is definitely the rally which most resembles our home situation the most. It is just over the border and of course there is similarity in language.” And there is a family factor to the rally – There are four father and son teams entered. From Holland come the Ford Focus WRCs of the van Merksteijns, and also the Kuiper families and the Mitsubishi Group N cars of the van der Heuvels. From Germany come the Gassner family Mitsubishis as well. The other great legend of the rally is the weather, and this year Rallye Deutschland will adopt a new dimension. This will be the first of the classic asphalt events in the 2008 season, and therefore the first time that Pirelli’s hard compound control tyres for dry asphalt stages will be available. Not withstanding the FIA’s best intentions that this would never happen again, two types of tyre will be made available, the teams given the choice of using wet or dry with sufficient total number of tyres of each being brought to the event. This means that the results of the event might easily be based on correct tyre choices. 29