Losing time with a fuel feed problem
Zimbabwean rallying ace Conrad Rautenbach experienced a difficult OMV ADAC Rallye Deutschland 2006 when changeable weather conditions and fuel feed problems hindered the 21 year old's title hopes.
Barely 4 days after driving a Subaru
Impreza to 4th place in the third round of the 2006 Tesco 99 Octane MSA British Rally Championship, the Rally Isle of Man, Conrad and co-driver David Senior resumed their Junior World Rally Championship program in Germany.
With no recent tarmac testing in the Renault S1600 that he campaigns in the JWRC Conrad knew he faced a variety of challenges, not least of which would be the weather.
But his attack would have to wait until Stage 2 as the first test was scrubbed after Jari Matti Latvala's Ford Focus WRC crashed mid way through the opening stage. A cautious run through very wet Dhrontal 1 netted 7th fastest, but Conrad followed that up with 2 top 6 times before the crew returned to mid day service.
Having to choose tyres for 4 stages up to 2 hours before competing on them is challenging & Conrad fell foul of the weather and with a couple of spins hampering him he struggled through the first 2 stages of the afternoon loop. Stage 7, a repeat of Stage 3, Grafschaft Veldenz, saw Conrad on the right tyres and he immediately went 2nd quickest, just 5 seconds down on Bernd Casier.
However Conrad was then caught out on a very slippery section of Moselwein, a tricky stage that runs through the vineyards near Fell, and a big spin cost the Clio driver a lot of time. Even so Conrad was happy to be lying 7th at the end of day 1, and was just 9.8 seconds down on top British driver Kris Meeke.
“The stages have been very difficult today. Each stage required a different tread pattern so it's a gamble as to who is going to be least wrong. Still, the car has gone well and we are still here.”
Day 2 dawned bright and sunny, presenting less of a challenge with tyre choices, and Conrad immediately began to attack, with 3rd quickest on the opening test. Next up was Panzerplatte the scene of his 2005 accident, possibly the biggest of his career, and yet Conrad was undaunted by the treacherous Baumholder Military ranges and was 4th fastest.
His big push was paying dividends and Conrad was now up to 5th overall, and ahead of Meeke, with local star Aaron Burkart his next target.
Alas lady luck was to depart the young Zimbabwean who struggled with fuel feed problems through the next 2 stages, with the car cutting out completely at times. This coupled with a pair of punctures in the longest stage of the rally meant Conrad would drop a gut wrenching 19 minutes on his competitors over 2 stages and returned to service visibly distressed.
Proving that, whilst down, he was most certainly not out, Conrad, with the Clio restored to full working order by the Geoff Jones Motorsport crew, immediately set 2 top 6 times, and this despite experiencing rain half way through both stages whilst running on slick tyres!
“It's very frustrating what happened today, but that is just rallying!” remarked a philosophical Rautenbach at the end of leg service.
Sunday featured 1 loop of 4 stages and with the rally now a glorified test Conrad put the previous day's problems behind him. 5th quickest through the first stage, and then 3rd quickest through the second stage of the day moved Conrad up to 9th, but with the road conditions alternating between damp and wet Conrad played it safe on the last 2 stages to bring his Renault Clio home in 9th place.
“The gap to 8th spot was just too great to make up and rather than risk crashing out we played it safe today. It's gutting to look at the times and see that, without my problems yesterday, we would have been on course for a top 3 finish! But that's the nature of the game and now we just need to focus on Finland. My recent test in Estonia has given me a lot of confidence and I reckon David and I will go well there.”
WRC Rally Finland, which begins just 4 days after the OMV ADAC Rally Germany finishes will be the 6th different rally in 6 weekends for the young Zimbabwean!