The 2018 ADAC Saarland-Palatinate Rally with its changeable conditions demanded everything of the 71 participants. The Brose Motorsport rally team of Dominik Dinkel and Christina Kohl proved they were more than a match for the course around St. Wendel and impressed in particular as the fastest team on the second day of the rally, when they clearly controlled the guest starter Simone Tempestini, the World Junior Rally Champion in 2016 and two-times Romanian champion. In the 280-hp Brose Skoda Fabia R5, the duo finished a commanding second overall, just a mere 19.1 seconds behind the winner, to pick up 22 valuable points in the German Rally Championship.
“Our main goal was to get off to a solid start to the new season and we achieved that fully, despite a number of problems,” was the satisfied verdict of 25-year-old Dominik Dinkel from Rossach in Upper Franconia. One of the difficulties he alluded to was the fact that conditions on the route kept on changing. During the inspection, the trials were characterized by still slippery asphalt alternating with compacted sheets of snow and ice – and right before the start of the first loop over three trials on the Friday, the snowfall rapidly grew stronger, making the tracks as smooth as glass. That happened so quickly that there was no longer any time to adjust the setup for the chassis and power transmission. An early spin in the opening trial “Freisen-Westrich” gave Dinkel a reminder to be cautious, while a puncture on the next trial cost further valuable time. “Under those circumstances, third place on the first day of the Saarland-Palatinate Rally is more than OK for us. We’d even feared we’d be much further behind,” said Dinkel and co-pilot Kohl (30) from Tiefenbach near Passau later in the service park.
The snow stopped in the night from Friday to Saturday, the trial routes were partly cleared by the organizers and salt was spread on them. Nevertheless, the conditions remained treacherous. Dinkel / Kohl got off to a sensational start on the Saturday with a perfectly tuned Brose Skoda Fabia R5. They left Björn Satorius, who was ahead of them in a Subaru Impreza, trailing by a huge 25.5 seconds on the “Bosenberg” trial and the experienced World Championship driver and leader Simone Tempestini by an even wider margin of 37.9 seconds – those are worlds in the rally business. The subsequent Windpark circuit is one of Dominik Dinkel’s favorite stretches. Unfortunately, the first run was aborted after a competitor crashed off the track. The split times put the Brose Team over 12 seconds ahead when that happened. However, Dinkel / Kohl were not able to gain any advantage from that, as the rally organizers awarded a uniform time to all the starters. The Windpark was again on the program at the end of the morning – and Dinkel / Kohl were in a class of their own here: Over the 26.2 kilometers, they left the Citroen DS3 R5 of Tempestini trailing by 23.7 seconds, while the third-fastest, Roman Schwedt in a Peugeot 207 S2000, was more than one minute behind. The gap between them and the rally leader dwindled to 23.7 seconds, while they led the third-placed Ron Schumann by almost three minutes.
There were now three trials in the road book: the start-finish trial “Haupersweiler-Hoof” (twice) and the short circuit in St. Wendel. Before the duo could tackle the remainder of the program, the Brose Skoda Fabia R5, which had otherwise run like clockwork, was beset by technical problems. Switching gear was only possible using the clutch, the shift lights and gear indicator refused to cooperate, and the display and dashboard showed fantasy figures. At the start of trial number ten, the automatic choke, which usually deactivates itself when the car gets going, decided it had a mind of its own. It was only after covering half the distance that Dominik Dinkel managed to disable it manually and enable the higher speeds the engine needed. After that incident at the very latest, Dinkel / Kohl refrained from launching an attack on the leader, set their sights on finishing, and wanted to get among the points at all costs. Despite their handicaps, they clocked the best time on the town circuit, were the second-fastest in the second run over Haupersweiler-Hoof, and were able to win four additional power stage points.
A heavy load fell from their shoulders under the arch at the finish line in St. Wendel – the specter of being forced to retire had been banished. “The demands were enormous. Driving one-and-a-half days at real speed without spikes, sometimes over icy surfaces, required self-discipline, concentration and strong nerves – especially on the Friday evening and then again when we had technical problems on the last loop. We’re happy with the points we picked up this weekend, thank our sponsors and team, and are already looking forward to the next showdown,” said Dominik Dinkel in the final interview. He and his co-pilot now line up in the Lavanttal Rally in Austria on April 6. / 7., then battle for their next points in the German Rally Championship in Sulingen on May 4. / 5.