Military roads designed to test American tanks to their very limits are tough enough, but combine them with some of the most technical tracks through the toweringly steep Mosel vineyards and complete the package with a fast and furious run through the German country lanes and you’ve got ADAC Rallye Deutschland.
Little wonder it’s one of the most feared rounds of the FIA World Rally Championship.
Chesterfield’s Rhys Yates stepped up, took on that challenge and emerged successfully at Sunday’s finish in Bostalsee, Germany’s Saarland region.
Taking on the world is nothing new to Rhys – it’s what he’s been doing all year since his sensational WRC 2 debut, where he finished fourth at Rallye Monte-Carlo in his ŠKODA Fabia R5.
Rallye Deutschland was Rhys’ fifth start in the world championship this season. After a baptism of fire in the French Alps on the Monte, the 27-year-old has subsequently impressed with his speed in Sweden, Corsica, Portugal and now Germany.
In a route of close to 800 miles (213 of which were flat-out and timed to the tenth of a second in 19 stages) in three days, Germany was the longest event Rhys had ever contested and a measured approach early on paid handsome dividends as the event progressed and he traded times with the likes of Nikolay Gryazin, the Russian driver who leads the WRC 2 standings.
Typically, the massive challenge of the Panzerplatte stages in the Baumholder military ranges – where hinkelsteins (enormous, like ginormous, rocks designed to keep tanks on the straight and narrow) line the roads – provided some of the liveliest action. Rhys and co-driver James Morgan faced down those fearsome roads brilliantly.
Rhys ended the event seventh in WRC 2, moving him firmly into contention for what would be an exceptional top-six finish in his rookie year in world rallying’s premier feeder series.
“I’m not going to lie to you, this one was a toughie. I knew it would be. I knew we were in for a real challenge.
“Pre-event test went well and then we got to drive through the stages on the recce and it was looking good – until we got to Panzerplatte and I got two punctures. I think that started to get into my head a little it. You hear everybody talking; everyone’s got a scary story about this place.
“The first day on Friday was really good for settling the nerves. I played myself in a bit through the morning, but pushed on in the afternoon. I was satisfied with the progress and really looked forward to a big day on Saturday when we were into the military roads.
“Turns out it’s true what they say about Panzerplatte. I’ve a few scary stories of my own now! The surface changes all the time from broken concrete, to good sealed asphalt then back to almost a gravel road with lots of muck and dust. It’s so, so hard to get into a rhythm and get a tempo with the driving – but that’s part of the challenge.
“We were quicker on our second run through the long (25-mile) stage even though we were in the dark – maybe because I couldn’t see all the hazards and those massive rocks waiting to catch us at the side of the road!
“When I started out in the world championship this year, I looked at rallies like Monte Carlo and Sweden and thought: “Yeah, they’ll be a big, proper challenge.” Germany, I thought: “Yeah, probably be tricky, but it’s a Tarmac rally and I know a bit about them.” Wow! It’s been a really steep learning curve. I don’t mean I underestimated it, I just didn’t appreciate just how tricky this one would be – but that’s why it’s part of the World Rally Championship!”
“To leave here with points and real progress in terms of the speed we’ve shown is a great result for me and the team.”
Hot, sunny and no sign of the changeable weather which usually accompanies the WRC’s annual visit to the Mosel region. It didn’t get cooler than 15 degrees and, at its hottest, the mercury was running in the low 30s. No jacket required.
About ADAC Rallye Deutschland
Date: August 22-25
Competitive distance: 213.78 miles (344.04km)
Wales Rally GB
Rhys reckons: “Home. Sort of. The roads we use on this rally are definitely some of the best in the world – and I’m not just saying that because it’s my home event. When you get into places like Dyfi and Hafren, the stage just flows so nicely; there’s a real variety of corners and the undulations, going through the valleys then popping out on top of a mountain give great character to this one.
“Obviously, this being October in North Wales, there’s a chance it might rain, but that doesn’t bother us one bit.”