TRIER, Germany - M-Sport World Rally Team’s drivers Mikko Hirvonen and Elfyn Evans will be looking to make an impression on asphalt next week as the FIA World Rally Championship embarks on the first pure Tarmac event of the year – the ADAC Rallye Deutschland.
Regarded as three rallies in one, the German fixture is one of a kind. Incorporating marked variation in character, the blacktop stages demand precision driving and expert preparation. Changing grip levels and unpredictable forecasts are the order of the weekend and crews have to master a blend of speed and adaptability.
Littered with junctions and tight hairpin bends, the angular tracks through the Mosel vineyards offer a stark contrast to the country roads of Saarland where the Fiesta RS WRCs are let loose at maximum speed. But it is arguably the perilous dash between the ‘Hinkelstein’ concrete blocks of the Arena Panzerplatte for which the event has become famed.
Those in the hunt for the top positions need to be on the pace throughout each variation of the rally’s diverse character. There’s no resting on your laurels in Germany and complete trust in your car and safety crew is essential. Settle into a comfortable rhythm, and you risk being swiftly left behind; attack each mud-strewn bend and deceptive cut with blind faith, and you risk bringing your rally to an untimely end.
The German asphalt demands respect and there are few more experienced than Hirvonen and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen. The Finns know what it takes to tame the daunting roads of the Rhineland and will apply all of their knowledge in pursuit of a strong result.
The Finns have been plagued by misfortune this season, but having finished on the podium three times in Germany they’ll be determined to prove a point.
Embarking on the second phase of their development, Evans and co-driver Daniel Barritt will be looking to show further progression. The Welshman is anticipating an easier transition to his top-specification Fiesta on asphalt, but remains true to his character as one of the championship’s most grounded young talents.
The youngster takes a wealth of four-wheel-drive experience forward having secured a highly impressive sixth place behind the wheel of his Fiesta R5 in 2013, but his attention remains firmly fixed on gaining the vital knowledge and experience to support his future ambitions.
“It’s going to be an interesting rally. I really enjoyed the Fiesta in the tricky conditions in 2011 so it will be good to see how it handles on asphalt this year,” said Mikko Hirvone. “There’s no getting away from the fact that Germany is a challenging event. The grip levels are constantly changing and you have to understand the road and the changes in conditions.
“As we saw last year, it can sometimes be a rally of survival, but finding the right balance between survival and setting the good times is really tricky. Even if it’s dry, we need to remember that we are rallying through working vineyards so there is always a lot of gravel on the road. Then when it rains, a lot of mud gets pulled out from the cuts.
“The biggest challenge is being committed through the cuts. You need to be really brave and have complete trust in your car and your safety crew. Thankfully, my safety crew have done a fantastic job for me this year.
“We’ve been hoping to be on the podium at every event this year but for various reasons it hasn’t quite come together. We know it will be tough, but if everything comes together and we can be up there fighting, it would be absolutely perfect.”
M-Sport will dominate the field with 44 per cent of the overall entry. Twenty-four different nationalities have opted for the Blue Oval – proving that M-Sport’s range of Fiesta rally cars remain a firm favourite with competitors around the globe. Ford Fiesta RS WRCs have been entered alongside two Fiesta RRCs, eight Fiesta R5s and 20 Fiesta R2s.
In addition to Hirvonen and Evans, M-Sport will run a further three Fiesta RS WRCs for Robert Kubica, Dennis Kuipers and Yuriy Protasov. Dutchman Kuipers is making a welcome return to the championship and Ukrainian Protasov is making his debut behind the wheel of M-Sport’s top-specification Fiesta.
The M-Sport team will also run the Fiesta R5 of 2013’s FIA Junior World Rally Champion, Pontus Tidemand. The talented Swede secured a podium finish on his debut with the latest Fiesta at Rally de Portugal and will be capable of a similar feat next week.
The three-day event starts on Thursday.