M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s Evgeny Novikov and Ott Tänak face a new challenge next week as the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) embarks on the first all-asphalt event of the year at the 2012 ADAC Rallye Deutschland.
Arguably the most daunting Tarmac test of the season, the onus will be on car and tyre preservation and the M-Sport duo will need to be at the top of their game with word-perfect pacenotes and total concentration as they strive for another strong result on Germany’s treacherous sealed-surface stages.
With 15 special stages close to the border with Luxembourg, Rallye Deutschland will see the crews tackle three days of rallying and face the challenge of adapting to differing stage characteristics on each day of competition.
The tight and twisty tracks through the picturesque Mosel vineyards require a perfect set-up for precision cornering, yet the fast and flowing roads through Germany’s Saarland region will allow the youngsters the freedom to really showcase their speed. The most demanding test will be found on the perilous dash between the ‘Hinkelstein’ concrete blocks that litter the Baumholder military ground, and M-Sport’s young guns will need to have their wits about them as they navigate the notorious Arena Panzerplatte.
Nevertheless, thanks to the demanding nature of the stages, Rallye Deutschland is one of the most popular on the WRC calendar. Attracting a host of rally fanatics from throughout Europe, the M-Sport pairing will be out to impress in front of the hundreds of thousands of adoring fans.
Rallye Deutschland will be particularly challenging for Novikov. Not only will this be the Russian’s first venture to the event, but the 21-year-old will also welcome a new co-driver to the navigator’s seat of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC – a member of his gravel crew and 2008 Intercontinental Rally Championship winning co-driver, Nicolas Klinger. Having injured his back at Rally Finland earlier this month, regular co-driver Denis Giraudet will forfeit the event to ensure that he is fully fit for the remainder of the season, and he was instrumental in the decision to appoint 36-year-old Klinger to the pacenotes.
Ever undaunted by the challenges ahead, Novikov will remain one to watch on the asphalt stages. Securing back-to-back fifth-place finishes in Monte-Carlo and Sweden – events which he was also contesting for the first time this year – one can never discount the ALM Russia driver’s ability to impress, giving the stages his customary dose of ‘maximum attack’.
Participating in Rallye Deutschland for the third time, Tänak and co-driver Kuldar Sikk are well-versed in what it takes to tame the event’s Tarmac tests. Tackling the event for the first time as part of the Pirelli Star Driver scheme in 2010, Tänak returned to take the S-WRC victory by over five-and-a-half minutes last year as he dominated behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta S2000. The Estonian will be looking for strong form again this year as he graduates to the Ford Fiesta RS WRC.
This weekend will see the 24-year-old join his Ford World Rally Team comrade, Petter Solberg, at the Castle Combe Rallyday in the UK. Acting as a judge for Castrol Edge’s ‘Search for a Rally Star’, Tänak will impart his knowledge of both Tarmac and gravel rallying to the hopefuls before making the journey to the ninth round of the WRC season for the real deal.
Following his sixth-place finish at Rally Finland earlier this month, the Estonian will be looking to maintain the momentum and replicate his previous successes on the German event.
Evgeny Novikov said:
“I’m feeling good ahead of the event and looking forward to getting back in the car. I’m ready to fight and in a really good mood for the rally.
“It will be very strange not having Denis [Giraudet] next to me, but Nicolas [Klinger] is a very nice guy and also a very good co-driver. We will work hard during the recce to make sure that our pacenotes are as good as they can be and I am sure that everything will be fine.
“This will be my first time at this event so it will be all about doing our best for a good result.”
Ott Tänak said:
“This will be the first proper Tarmac event of the year so for sure it will be a challenge. In the beginning it will not be so easy to get back into the rhythm of driving on asphalt, but we should be able to find our pace throughout the weekend.
“This will be my third time in Germany. On the recce the roads can look quite easy, but they are really deceptive! During the event there are lots of cuts and – especially on the military ground – a lot of mud and gravel can get pulled onto the road which makes it quite slippery and a big challenge.
“I’ve got no target in mind for this event – just keep going, find our pace and hopefully secure another good result for the team.”
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