There is no such thing in life as a cast iron guarantee but a Sebastien Loeb victory on Rallye Deutschland is about as close as it gets. French ace Loeb, the six-time world champion and lead driver of the Citroen Total World Rally Team, has never been beaten in Germany since the country’s all-asphalt event was elevated to world championship status in 2002.
He starts this year’s rally, which returns to the WRC schedule following a one-year absence, 48 points ahead of Citroen team-mate Sebastien Ogier and the clear favourite to land his eighth victory on the Trier-based event, which runs from August 19-22 and counts as round nine of the 2010 World Rally Championship.
Loeb, who has claimed 22 of his 58 WRC event wins using Pirelli tyres, described the task facing the crews and their tyres in Germany: “It’s an absolute challenge. There are some very fast sections, some extremely difficult passages, narrow and then wide asphalt roads and the surfaces are so varied. The stages in the Moselle vineyards require 100 per cent concentration and the satisfaction afterwards [when you get it right] is immense because the roads are so narrow.
“Then you have the Baumholder [military ranges], which are unlike any other asphalt roads we know. There are rough, clean, wide and fast sections with gravel, mud and dust thrown in. Nowhere is it harder for a driver to find the right mix. If you want to win in Germany you have to be successful on these stages.”
Like all his rivals competing in Germany in four-wheel drive machinery, Loeb will choose from the hard or soft compound version of Pirelli’s PZero tyre, which has been designed specifically for asphalt use as part of Pirelli’s three-year agreement as the official tyre supplier to the WRC. The hard compound is intended for dry conditions with the soft version offering better grip in the event of rain. However, because the road surface in the vineyard stages is less abrasive than on some other asphalt events, crews could opt for the soft compound even when there has been no rainfall.
“If the weather is dry then we expect drivers to use the hard compound PZero tyre in Baumholder but it is possible that some will use the soft compound in the vineyard stages,” said Pirelli’s senior WRC tyre engineer Matteo Braga. “The Tarmac in the vineyards is not so abrasive like it was in Bulgaria, for example, and you don’t have the long, high-speed corners, which means the soft compound tyre will not be so susceptible to wear. The surface in the vineyards is also quite smooth so the soft compound tyre can provide more grip.”
Although it was largely dry during Germany’s last appearance in the WRC in 2008, inclement weather has been a feature of the event in the past, a fact not lost on Braga and his team of engineers and tyre technicians, who will be supplying tyres to more than 60 competitors.
“We can have a lot of heavy rain in Germany so we will have a lot of people using the soft compound PZero tyre,” said Braga. “Because there are eight tyre changes on the rally, the Priority 1 and 2 drivers can use a total of 54 tyres, which is 14 more than in Bulgaria. They have an allocation of 40 hard and 32 soft compound tyres so it will be a busy rally for our team, particularly as there are two choices of tyre compound and lots of competitors.
“Like always, though, we are prepared for this big number and have provided extra resources to ensure we provide the same quality of product and service we do on all rallies.”
As on most asphalt events, puncture risk is relatively low although it can be a factor on the Baumholder stages where a coating of dust and an aggressive surface combine to create a greater threat of deflations, especially as giant boulders, known locally as Hinkelsteins, line the road. Pirelli’s PZero tyres feature reinforced sidewalls to help prevent against punctures and their strength and durability have been widely praised by WRC teams and drivers alike.
Rallye Deutschland is the fourth event of the season for the Pirelli Star Driver programme, a joint initiative between Pirelli and the FIA. It gives the opportunity for five promising young talents, Nick Georgiou, Peter Horsey, Hayden Paddon, Alex Raschi and Ott Tanak, to contest six rounds of the World Rally Championship in identical Pirelli-backed Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Xs.
As well as counting as round nine of the main WRC, Rallye Deutschland is also round six of the Production Car World Rally Championship, for two-litre turbocharged Group N cars, and round seven of the Super 2000 World Rally Championship, which uses normally aspirated two-litre cars. Pirelli supplies its hard and soft compound PZero tyres to both support championships, thereby underlining the performance and efficiency of the Italian rubber on a wide range of machinery.
Rallye Deutschland marks the second time this season that Pirelli’s RX tyre has been used by crews in the Junior World Rally Championship. Replacing the old RS design, the tyre uses the same technology incorporated into the 18-inch version of the RX, but it is now available in 17- and 16- inch dimensions. The tyre has been designed to provide more precision, reaction, durability and consistency for competitors in the young driver class. Crews also have a supply of RE7 tyres available for use in wet weather conditions.
Featuring 405.67 competitive kilometres over 19 special stages, the event is the longest in terms of competitive distance in the WRC so far this season. Action gets underway at 0943hrs local time on Friday August 20 with the final stage around Trier’s historical Portra Nigra beginning at 1303hrs on Sunday August 22.
Pirelli’s Rallye Deutschland bid in numbers:
40: number of PZero hard compound tyres available for use by P1 and P2 drivers
32: number of PZero soft compound tyres available for use by P1 and P2 drivers
54: total number of PZero tyres P1 and P2 drivers can use for the entire event
32: number of PZero hard compound tyres available for use by all other 4WD crews
16: number of PZero soft compound tyres available for use by all other 4WD crews
37: total number of PZero tyres other 4WD crews can use for the entire event
28: number of RX5 tyres available for JWRC competitors
28: total number of RX5 and RE7 tyres JWRC competitors can use for the entire event
59: number of 4WD crews using Pirelli tyres on Rallye Deutschland
20: number of Pirelli personnel working on Rallye Deutschland
3874: total number of tyres transported by Pirelli to Rallye Deutschland