The 36th edition of ADAC Rallye Deutschland, and the 16th edition of the event since it joined the FIA World Rally Championship, takes place in Germany starting today and running through Sunday. Over the next four days, the world’s top drivers will tackle 18 of the fastest and most challenging tarmac-based stages in the world, while also having to monitor the weather very carefully for any surprise developments.
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT’s Ott Tänak comes into the weekend on a high note, having won the most recent WRC round at Rally Finland for his fourth career victory and second of the season. He’ll enter the event third in points behind Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT’s Thierry Neuville and five-time defending series champion Sebastien Ogier of M-Sport Ford WRT. Aside from the drivers’ championship, here are some of the stories we’ll be monitoring this weekend:
How will drivers adapt to only the second tarmac rally of the year?
After April’s Tour de Corse, the past four WRC rounds have all been on gravel surfaces. That’s all well and good for Ogier, who won in France in the spring and has three wins in Germany to his name. But Neuville has won here as well, in 2014, and Tänak actually enters the weekend as the event’s defending winner. There’s nothing better than seeing a group of evenly matched drivers duke it out, and seeing the top three in points enter an event as its three most recent winners presents a salivating prospect.
Do we have a bona fide manufacturer’s championship battle on our hands?
Hyundai may be up on Ford in manufacturer points, 228-202, but the battle seems to be far from over. Toyota’s dual podium in Finland (first and third) has it up to 201, giving us a theoretical three-way fight heading into the final five rounds of the season. Only lowly Citroen, at 153 points and frequently without a third car to put it on par with the other three brands, seems to truly be out of the points battle—and even they got a shot in the arm when Mads Østberg took second place at Rally Finland.
Can Jan Kopecky take the WRC-2 points lead with a class win in Germany?
Kopecky and Pontus Tidemand are Skoda Motorsport’s top two drivers, and Germany will represent Kopecky’s fourth round of the season to equalize with his Swedish teammate. However, while the Czech driver is a perfect three-for-three in Monaco, France, and Italy, Tidemand fell to Takamoto Katsuta in his home event in February. That means, all things being equal, the Czech driver can take the points lead away from his two-time defending champion teammate if he can only earn his fourth win of the season.