Despite having won in south-west Germany for the last two years, Tänak knows a third victory is a tough ask at one of the season’s most complex fixtures.
Essentially an asphalt rally, a mix of bumpy and narrow corkscrew vineyard tracks, daunting multi-surface tank training roads and smooth country lanes mean grip levels change constantly and drivers struggle for rhythm.
“It’s certainly not an easy rally. I think last year was one of the most difficult wins in my career, as the competition was very strong and I had to push really hard from the beginning,” said the Estonian, who has 10 WRC victories.
“It’s a big challenge for a driver to have so many different types of road in one rally, and to try to be fast on all of them and not make any mistakes.”
Tänak is on blistering form. He has won three of the last four rallies to build a 22-point championship lead, and only damaged steering a handful of kilometres from the finish in Italy in June prevented a four-timer and an even more handsome advantage.
Six-time champion Sébastien Ogier is his closest rival and eager to shift the title momentum in his favour, but the Citroën C3 driver refuses to throw caution to the wind to stop the Tänak train.
“I can’t take big risks here because of the way things are in the championship, so I’ll have to tread a fine line between attacking and finishing. It’s extremely important to get a good result and secure points,” explained the Frenchman, who is winless since March.
Thierry Neuville is three points further back and the only other driver in title contention. The Hyundai i20 pilot won the last asphalt round in Corsica and warmed up with a remarkable win on his circuit racing debut during a guest appearance at the Nurburgring last weekend.
Elfyn Evans is ruled out for a second event with a back injury and will again be replaced by Gus Greensmith in M-Sport Ford’s Fiesta, while Japanese youngster Takamoto Katsuta makes his WRC World Rally Car debut in a Yaris.
The rally starts at Bostalsee on Thursday evening and drivers face 19 tests covering 344.04km before Sunday afternoon’s finish.