Germany : BFGoodrich - Finish
The two-time World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb
today equalled the record for the highest number of WRC wins (26, held jointly by Carlos Sainz) thanks to a personal fifth win in Germany, the fixture that gave him his first world class success
Indeed, Sebastien Loeb
has yet to be beaten on the Trier-based event which this year featured its traditional cocktail of constantly changing weather conditions. The Frenchman's fifth win of 2006 takes him 33 points clear at the top of the provisional Drivers' standings, while the one-two finish of Loeb and his Spanish team-mate Dani Sordo (Citroën/BFGoodrich) sees Kronos Racing strengthen its lead at the top of the Manufacturers' table, 23 points ahead of BP-Ford/BFGoodrich.
The Rallye Deutschland's route extends from the banks of the Mosel Valley near Trier to the Saarland forests some 60km kilometres to the south. It's a region where the weather is notoriously fickle at this time of year and this tends to make tyre choices extremely difficult; a 'lottery' even at times since the stages for which they are selected often start many hours after the cars leave service.
Indeed, the second tyre call of the opening leg on Friday had a decisive influence on the way the 2006 event unfolded. Despite heavy rain at the Bostalsee service park, the stages were completely dry and forecasters were optimistic that the situation would stay that way all afternoon.
As a consequence, all BFGoodrich's runners opted for the g-Force Profiler 'dry weather' asphalt tyre, but in a variety of different compounds. Just in case rain did break out again, the three Citroën/BFGoodrich drivers – Loeb, Sordo and Gardemeister – chose the soft option. Meanwhile, in the Ford/BFGoodrich camp, factory drivers Grönholm and Hirvonen both chose the medium compound… and it rained. Running with the ideal tyres for the conditions, the Citroën trio concluded the day by securing all three places on the overnight podium.
The second day started out dry but overcast as action moved further south and attention focused on the stages of the infamous Baumholder military ranges which are always highly aggressive on tyres and extremely slippery in the wet. This time, both Ford/BFGoodrich drivers made the ideal tyre call which enabled Grönholm to retrieve 3rd place while Petter Solberg (Subaru) was sidelined with engine failure. However, the gap pulled out by the two Kronos Racing drivers the previous day was far too big to give the Finn any hope of bridging it without a mistake by either of the Citroën/BFGoodrich pair.
As expected, Loeb contented himself with controlling from in front until the finish ceremony by Trier's Porta Negra monument where the Frenchman had the honour of popping the champagne for the fifth time in as many years. Alongside his older team-mate on the podium, Dani Sordo was able to celebrate his own outstanding performance after his first attempt at the German round in a WRC car.
Meanwhile, the scrap for 3rd spot between Grönholm, Gardemeister and Hirvonen kept spectators on their toes all the way to the flag. Citroën/BFGoodrich privateer Toni Gardemeister succeeded in splitting the two Ford/BFGoodrich drivers but Hirvonen ultimately fell back to 9th overall after being delayed by an alternator problem on the run back to Trier. The Finn's misfortunes promoted Austria's Manfred Stohl (Peugeot/BFGoodrich) to 5th place ahead of German youngster Andreas Aigner (6th, Skoda/BFGoodrich) who was another driver to put in an excellent run this weekend. Also in form was Jan Kopecky (7th) who claimed two fastest stage times with his privately-entered Skoda/BFGoodrich in the course of Leg 2.Sebastien Loeb
“It was a very difficult rally and the constantly changing conditions made it pretty stressful from start to finish. Getting the different tyre calls right was vital, especially for Friday's second loop of stages. The roads were dry but our weather crew couldn't rule out the likelihood of more rain, so I decided to fit soft compound g-Force Profilers. It's a tyre that gets up to its ideal working temperature very quickly and it gave good grip over all four stages of the group. I felt very confident with it and, thanks to this choice, Dani and I were able to pull out a nice lead over our rivals."
Aimé Chatard, BFGoodrich's Rallies Programme Manager
“I would like to congratulate Sébastien and the Kronos Racing team who made the best tyre choices this weekend. Ford hadn't tested the new Focus for this event in the wet so their drivers had little to go on during the opening leg. Our range of tyres needed to be sufficiently broad to cover all the conditions encountered this weekend and, to further fine-tune them as closely as possible, it was necessary to 're-cut' their patterns on occasions. This is Sébastien's fifth consecutive win in Germany – a record – and also BFGoodrich's ninth consecutive win from nine starts, another record!"
Press release BFGoodrich