Rally Deutschland is a tarmac rally with many unique characters. It’s often called “three rallies in one”, but is it really? Meanwhile, the route has changed only slightly from last year. Let’s take a closer look.
Rally Deutschland is based at the lake Bostalsee, Western Germany. It is one of the youngest WRC events, having featured first time on the calendar in 2002. It has always been driven around the same area.
The stages are run on narrow vineyard and country lanes, occasionally also diving into forests or going through towns. The roads are narrow and fast except for the tight turns. Certain sections are also driven hyper fast on wide main roads. The resulting high speeds are often controlled with chicanes or short detours off the road.
And of course, there is the Baumholder military area hosting the Panzerplatte stages. The surface is often on concrete, many times very worn. The bigger difference to the rest of the rally is that the roads are generally wider and have more flowing medium fast corners over crests.
The “three rallies in one” analogy comes from the differences of the vineyards, countryside and Baumholder areas. The vineyards may have more hairpins and elevation differences than the countryside roads, but the basic character is similar. Therefore, I think the analogy is a bit exaggerated, as the road types always vary within a rally anyway.
The roads often get very “polluted” with mud from cutting the corners. This combined with bumpy tarmac surfaces makes Rally Deutschland sometimes look more like a gravel rally with lots of sliding, especially if it rains. And like that wasn’t enough, there’s also some jumps!
Rally Deutschland is presenting a new concept never before seen in the WRC where the same stage is being used for the shakedown and the Thursday opening stage. This way, the rally won’t have a single super special. Based on their efforts from the past two years, it’s a good decision.
The shakedown and the opening stage of St. Wendeler Land is the same as last year’s shakedown and the beginning of 2017’s power stage. The stage has also featured earlier in a longer format, in reversed direction in 2008 and before.
The stage is quite angular with very fast sections stitched together by tight junctions. The beginning is quite narrow. It gets even narrower at 1.3 km and back to a bit wider at 3 km. At 3.3 km and just before the finish there are chicanes built in Y shaped junctions, as well as a haybale chicane at 4.4 km before crossing a railroad bridge.
The nature of the stage reminds me of the Saturday countryside stages. It’s true that the essence of Rally Deutschland is about fast sections and tight corners, so in that way it’s representative, but the hairpins, jumps, wide main roads, and worn surfaces will be a different challenge.
The Friday stages have remained unchanged from last year. They are driven North-West and West from the service park. They are a mix of countryside roads, vineyards and wider roads.
Stein Und Wein has featured often in the rally, sometimes under the title Ruwertal – Fell, with slightly varying routes. It is driven in the forests and countryside with a couple of visits to vineyards, on many different road types.
The stage starts on a narrow road at a village, proceeding through frequent junctions and hairpins in a forest. An especially tricky junction and a jump appear at 1 km.
A wider road is joined at 3.3 km. It’s mostly very fast with a Tour de Course like feel from 5.0 to 6.4 km with a hairpin. A chicane slows the route down at 7.6 km. A tricky junction turns into an even wider road at 8.1 km with a detour to a parking place at 9.8 km.
The next sections are again more or less narrower with even a short bit of concrete surface. There is a chicane and crossing of the main road at 15.5 km, going back to wide road at 16 km for 900 metres then through two hairpins onto a narrower road. Just before the end it gets super fast with a wide cut at 18.9 km.
Mittelmosel is a staple vineyard stage, having featured every time the rally has had WRC status except 2014. The current version has been in use since 2016, when the ending part of the stage was introduced.
The stage starts amid vineyards and fields. Parts of the beginning of the stage have a stunning view over the river Mosel. The roads are narrow and some of the junctions have a concrete surface. At 1.4 km there’s a hairpin onto a narrow climb up. At 2.1 km a tricky corner occurs where all of Thierry Neuville, Dani Sordo and Juho Hänninen went into the vines in 2017.
A pair of surprising junctions appears at 2.5 km. The stage then leaves the vineyards for a while. The surface is often worn on these countryside lanes. Return to the vineyards happens with descending hairpins at 6.6 km. The last hairpin on the vineyards at 12.3 km almost ruined Ott Tänak’s rally in 2017.
After this the road gets very narrow as it exits the vineyards, going into a forest at 14.9 km. However, the next section is wide and hyper fast for 1.3 km. The hairpin junction is reached through a chicane, turning onto a wide worn road. The road narrows at 17.7 km at two uphill hairpins. The following sections are fast with varying surfaces. At 21.1 km a pair of descending hairpins leads onto a very narrow vineyard lane whereas another pair takes the route back onto the main road for the finish.
Wadern-Weiskirchen is a semi-super-special stage introduced in 2017. It consists of narrow countryside roads which are set in a loop. Each driver does two laps and then turns away for the finish. This means the roads get double-polluted as the same road will be used four times by each car. However, Sebastien Ogier found it difficult enough on the first pass in 2017.
The narrow roads don’t have that much variation but there’s a fair amount of square corners, some of them under trees. The last parts just before the finish are also a bit narrower and more worn than the others.
The Saturday stages are driven in the same areas as last year, South and East from the service park. This year a new concept is introduced by driving two runs of the two fast countryside stages in the morning and then two runs of the two Baumholder stages in the afternoon, allowing spectators to easily see four stages in total during the day. Compared to Friday and Sunday, there’s no driving at vineyards at all.
Freisen is first of the countryside stages. The current version was introduced in 2016. Between 2004 and 2010 the stage was driven in the opposite direction, although the first year was under the title Teufelskopf.
Right after the start there’s a hairpin onto a narrow road going first through a forest, then amid fields. A hairpin turn at 2 km makes the road wider for a while before the next tight turn back to narrow but fast roads.
A very wide road appears at 4.8 km with a chicane at 5.9 km before the next junction. The following section is a bit less wide and resembles Rally Catalunya in its flowing corners. The next road at 7.6 km is again narrow and bumpy. Thierry Neuville had a field excursion here in 2016.
A tunnel is used to go below a highway at 9 km. Another super fast section follows with a chicane at the end. A hairpin at 10.6 km takes onto another main road for a short while before a wide but worn road is joined. A narrow forest road follows at 12.1 km, with further similar roads going faster amid fields towards the end.
Römerstraße is now on its third outing in WRC. Each year it has been the fastest stage of the rally, with average speeds at 120 km/h. It’s again likely to be the fastest stage of the rally.
It starts on very wide roads with some nice bends. At 2 km there’s a turn onto narrow but angular, very fast roads. Elfyn Evans and Craig Breen went off last year in this fast right at 2.8 km.
At 5.6 km the narrow countryside roads reach another main road. The junction has a bump in it, which took a couple of victims in 2017.
The stage turns instantly away from the main road onto more fast and narrow roads. The surface becomes more worn at 8.8 km. Another very wide and smooth road appears at 9.6 km with a chicane soon after the junction. Yet another turn onto fast and narrow roads occurs at 10.5 km and now the surface is again worn.
The next two stages are driven in the Baumholder military area which has featured in the rally every year it has been in WRC. These roads are known for their abrasive concrete surfaces, tank-stopping Hinkelsteins and tricky junction turns. However, for me the thing about these stages are the fast and flowing sections over crests – something the other stages don’t offer.
Like typically, the Baumholder area is split into a short and a long stage. For this year they have been mostly reversed from last year. In addition to the reversing there are slight modifications here and there like every year, with endless configurations available.
Arena Panzerplatte starts instantly different than any of the previous stages – with a constant flow of medium fast corners and crests. Because of the abrasively worn surface the cars are going often sideways.
A faster but angular section with a less worn surface begins at 3.4 km followed by a smoother tarmac with more flowing corners. A big jump appears at 7 km. The junction where Thierry Neuville snapped his rear suspension in 2017 is at 8.6 km, although the driving direction is now opposite.
The last 1.5 km are driven mostly on a very wide and smooth concrete surface with multiple artificial tight turns on the spectator area, occasionally narrower and rougher.
The long Panzerplatte stage has countless surface changes from wide to narrow, worn to smooth and tarmac to concrete. There are also numerous junctions and rhythm changes from very fast to flowing to technical. At 41 km it is the second longest stage of the whole season, with only one stage in Tour de Corse longer than it.
Like mentioned, most of the stage is reversed from last year with some modifications. A good part of this route was driven in this direction in the 2014 rally.
The beginning is quite fast and flowing, going occasionally in the forests. It becomes more angular at 4.6 km. At 8.1 km the spectator arena is rejoined, almost touching the previous stage route. A very tricky chicane is tackled at 9.6 km. After that it becomes again fast and flowing, going through various sections through forests and hills. A new chicane loop added at 14.2 km. Here’s a technical place at 17.5 km, filmed in the 2014 rally.
A descending jump is surprises at 18.5 km. The following 12 km have many surface changes and also rhythm changes. Most of it is fast and flowing, but at 26 km there is a narrow and technical section.
At 31.2 km the concrete surface is one of the roughest in the whole stage. A kilometre later there’s a turn onto a smooth, very fast and very wide section. However, it’s cut with four detours onto smaller and more worn roads. Finally the last four kilometres are wide and fast-flowing in the forest alternating between new smooth tarmac and old worn concrete.
The Sunday stages have been updated for this year. They are driven North from the service park and feature many vineyard sections as well as some countryside and forest sections. The four stages make up almost 80 kilometres of competitive driving, which is almost twice the amount driven in Rally Finland this year.
Grafschaft has a new beginning for this year. The same section ended the stage in 2013 and a slightly different version started it the year after. Meanwhile, most of the stage is the same as last year.
The stage begins with a narrow section in the vineyards, going up and down stuck between a wall and a steep drop. At 3.9 km the stage deviates onto previously undriven roads. It goes for a while on a wider road and then returns into the vineyards, joining parts of last year’s route in the opposite direction, like the corner at 7.6 km where Dani Sordo went out into the vines.
Upon exiting the vineyards at 9.6 km the road is medium wide between the trees, then narrow and fast amid fields. At 11.2 km last year’s route is joined finally in the same direction. Compared to last year a shortcut is taken at 13.1 km, going in and out of a wider road, then back to narrow country lanes.
At this point of all previous Grafschaft stages there has been a long twirl in the vineyards, but now they are merely bypassed by their edge. Last year’s route is rejoined while exiting the vineyards.
The road becomes slightly wider at 16.4 km while going through a village through numerous junctions. A very wide main road is then used at 17.9 km. Subsequently the stage goes again through a town on a medium wide road with a chicane on it. A forest section begins with a series of ascending hairpins. Finally the stage emerges out of the forest back onto the fields and becomes a bit angular and narrower, save for a couple of wider main road bits just before the finish.
Dhrontal is again the power stage, having served as such also in 2013 and 2015. The route has varied more or less every year, but this year’s route is almost the same as 2016 except that it ends 3 km earlier and has an ending for 250 metres on a road used in 2006 and before.
The stage starts on a wide main road but turns instantly on a quite narrow road and then to another similar one. The latter road is untypically flowing with also a couple of tricky places under tree branches. At 1.9 km it gets a bit narrower. Several hairpins and a jump also spice up this section as the road is again at the edge of a vineyard.
The main road is used again for a while at 4.3 km. A very tricky junction series takes the stage back to the narrow vineyard roads. Some ascending hairpins occur at 6 km, then very narrow driving between a wall and a drop. At 7.9 km the road becomes a bit wider, and then there’s another hairpin turn. What follows is a long left hander where Jari-Matti Latvala slid off the rally lead in 2014.
At 8.5 km the road narrows again at a dropping jump. The three last hairpins of the rally ascend at 10 km, then the stage turns away from the vineyards onto an angular forest section before the finish.
Road conditions and starting order
Like mentioned, Rally Deutschland is one of the few rallies in the season where it’s a considerable advantage to start first. The drivers will cut heavily, pulling dirt and gravel onto the road, making the surface more slippery for later starters. On wet conditions, the tarmac could become even muddy.
The winner of the two past Rally Deutschlands, Ott Tänak will start first on the road, gaining instantly advantage to his championship rivals Sebastien Ogier and Thierry Neuville. Drivers with good pace on this rally such as Dani Sordo or Jari-Matti Latvala will start further down the back, although the entry list isn’t published yet and some team lineups are still be open.
Here we have Marcus Grönholm on the long Panzerplatte stage. The direction is opposite to this year, but the beginning of the stage covers this year’s Arena stage, whereas the section at 6:08 on the video is included on this year’s long Panzerplatte stage.