Trier, Germany August 23-26: Round 9 of 13 for 2012 – The fastest of three tarmac rounds included in the 2012 World Rally Championship calendar, Germany has both made heroes and broken many hearts over it’s 10 years of inclusion within the WRC.
This year was no different. Number 2 Ford Factory Driver Petter Solberg and Co-Driver Chris Patterson, learned this early on Day2. Drivers tackled two identical loops of three special stages covering 137.84km. Although the narrow tests were familiar from previous years, they were used in the opposite direction, ensuring accurate pace notes were crucial. The bumpy but fast tracks, linked by sharp hairpin bends, zig-zagged across the hillsides among the grapes and overhanging vines made it hard for drivers to pick out corners.
Although the region saw a decent amount of rain overnight, most of the stages would see dry conditions as the drivers arrived. This allowed Petter to opt for Michelins hard compound tires throughout the entire day. The 37yr old Norwegian pushed smooth and quick through SS1, all the way through the morning tests which left him sitting a proper 2nd place behind current World Champion Sebastien Loeb, who had won here in Trier 8yrs in a row coming in to 2012. Just in 13.1 seconds off the lead, Petter and Chris pushed through the rest of Day1 with no troubles, locking down their 2nd place at 20.4 seconds adrift of Seb.
“My experience of driving the Fiesta RS WRC on asphalt is relatively small, so I’m still getting used to the car on this surface,” he said. “Considering that, I’m very happy with my performance. I could have pushed harder, but it was important to establish a good feeling and not take too many risks. You have to be smart here.
“I lost a few seconds but this morning but this afternoon was perfect and the car was fantastic. Tomorrow is a long day with some difficult stages so it will be important not to do anything crazy,” added Solberg.
Day 2 saw conditions change dramatically. With the forecast seeing dry conditions for the day, Solberg and most all of their rivals opted for hard compound tires. Loeb got through the opening stage of the day with dry conditions, with the rain quickly following him to affect the rest of field. As soon as this changes, hard compound tires are just not suited for these temps and conditions. Despite pushing as hard as nature would allow, they immediately lost an additional 20seconds to the leader.
With one soft compound spare in the boot of their Fiesta RS WRC, the crew decided to fit the tire to their right rear to increase some traction. This did help, as Petter and Chris were at least able to retain their 2nd place standing. Once able, Petter changed to all softs for the beast of all tarmac stages “Arena Panzerplatte”. Measuring a lengthy 46.5km’s, this stage has written stories of both glory and tragedy. Today, unfortunately it would be the latter for Solberg and Patterson 30km’s in to the stage.
“It was my fault,” admitted Solberg. “In a long left corner, the back of the car began to slip and I couldn’t hold the slide. The rear right hit a rock and although we tried to carry on, unfortunately the damage was serious and when the wheel came off we had to stop.”
“It’s disappointing because my speed was good and I was so careful all weekend not to make any mistakes.” he added.
FWRT mechanics rebuilt the right rear corner of Petter car, and he was able to restart under “Rally 2” for Sunday. Despite some on/off good pace based on weather and attempting to cleanly finish the Rally, Petter and Chris won the 2nd stage of the final day and ended the Rally in a points paying position of 11th despite their unfortunate encounters.
“It would have been fantastic for the team to have finished second and third, but the car snapped away and once I hit the rock, it was all over. Until then my rally went extremely well. The testing and hard work that we put in improved the car on this surface and I was delighted with the pace,” he said.
So it’s on to the 10th round of 2012 to the legendary Rally GB, Sept.13-16th.. Hope to see you there.
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