It’s hardly surprising that a car-loving nation like Germany has a proud motor sport history. In the history of Formula 1, there has been no German Grand Prix on just three occasions. On the other hand, rally sport has tended to play second fiddle – despite the two world championship titles won by Walter Röhrl. The first event of international significance – the ‘Olympic Rally’ – was held in 1972 to mark the Summer Games in Munich. It would be another ten years, in 1982, before the Germany Rally was established, but a further 20 years would go by before the World Rally Championship stopped off on German soil for the first time. A merger of the Hunsrück Rally and the Germany Rally paved the way towards the top flight, where the country is now firmly established.
A rally throughout the whole of Germany – that happened just the once in 1972. In the Olympic Rally the competition venues for the Olympic Games were linked with each other. It began in Kiel, where the sailing events were held, and the finish line was set up in the Olympic Stadium in Munich. Over a period of four days, the participants covered a total of 3,400 kilometres. It was the first time that an array of top international drivers had been seen in Germany, among them Jean-Pierre Nicolas, Rauno Aaltonen, Tony Fall, Hannu Mikkola and Bernard Darniche. While Nicolas won in an Alpine A110, a 25 years old ‘Bavarian boy’ by the name of Walter Röhrl provided the big surprise before eventually having to retire in his Ford Capri.
A merger of the two biggest German rallies finally secured promotion to the World Rally Championship for the car-loving nation of Germany. The Germany Rally and the Hunsrück Rally were amalgamated in the 2001 season in the hope of receiving a positive assessment from the FIA. With Citroën, Ford, Peugeot and Škoda, four international works teams lined up at the start to check out the streets around the Mosel, the Baumholder military training ground and the Saarland. Philippe Bugalski won the rally in the Citroën Xsara, but it was ex-champion Walter Röhrl who provided the biggest spectacle as he got behind the wheel of the zero car, a Porsche 911 GT3.
The Germany Rally succeeded in making the leap to the world championship. In its inaugural year, Sébastien Loeb (Citroën Xsara) celebrated his first win in the World Rally Championship just two hours from his home town of Haguenau. The Alsatian was the fastest man of the weekend and fully deserved his victory. From 2002 to 2010, Loeb was the undisputed ‘King of Germany’. He dominated the event at will and won nine times in succession.
The 2011 season was characterised by an internal Citroën duel between Sébastien Loeb and Sébastien Ogier. For the first time in ten years, Loeb had a team colleague who was on equal terms with him. Over the course of the year, both Sébastiens battled it out to win the favour of team boss Olivier Quesnel, who ultimately confirmed Sébastien Loeb as the clear number one. The Alsatian was faster than his team colleague on the first day of the Germany Rally and, according to his team boss, should have won the event, but Ogier stuck at his task and eventually emerged as the winner due to tyre damage suffered by Loeb.
Jari-Matti Latvala and his co-driver Miikka Anttila put in the best performance for the Wolfsburg-based team, finishing in seventh place in Volkswagen’s home event held in the vineyards around Trier. Their teammates and the leaders in the World Rally Championship, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia, finished the ninth event of the season in 16th place. Both duos had briefly led the rally in their Polo R WRC vehicles. Andreas Mikkelsen and Mikko Markkula were forced to pull out of Rally Germany after co-driver Markkula injured his thoracic vertebra. The winner of Rally Germany was Dani Sordo driving for Citroën.
It was a weekend of highs and lows for Volkswagen Motorsport. The Rally Germany 2014 ended with the team guaranteed to win the WRC drivers’ title, but two of Volkswagen’s duos crashed out of the event, meaning that third place was the best finish the team could manage in the vineyards around Trier. Defending World Champion Sébastien Ogier and his co-driver Julien Ingrassia were forced to retire as early as Saturday when they left the road while they were in the lead. Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila then crashed out on Sunday’s final leg, flying off the road on a long left-hand bend when victory looked certain. There was some good news for the team too though, with Andreas Mikkelsen and Ola Fløene making it onto the podium for the first time by taking third place. The rally finished with a one-two victory for Hyundai Motorsport: Thierry Neuville won ahead of Dani Sordo.
What Volkswagen missed out on in 2013 and 2014, they returned to complete in the most emphatic manner in 2015: a home victory at the Rally Germany for the Wolfsburg-based carmaker! And that was not all: the podium was an all-Volkswagen affair. World champion Sébastien Ogier won the asphalt rally around Trier, while Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen crossed the finish line second and third at the ninth round of the season. And as if that were not enough, Latvala won the Power Stage to pick up three extra World Championship points. By the end of the rally in Germany, one thing was already certain: the 2015 world rally champion would once again drive a Volkswagen.