Getting to know new terrain, gathering further experience, and filling the yawning gap in the calendar between the first and second races in the German Rally Championship – those were the objectives that were at the top of the agenda for the Brose Motorsport rally team of Dominik Dinkel and Christina Kohl in the Lavanttal Rally. There was also the added spice of testing their mettle against top pilots in the Austrian National Championship and the Mitropa Rally Cup. And even though Dominik Dinkel and Christina Kohl had to contend with a lot of problems, they came away with positive feelings all in all.
Twelve trials had to be driven in best time in the 2018 International Weinberger Holz Lavanttal Rally over a total of 163.32 highly demanding kilometers – against the beautiful backdrop of Carinthia’s countryside, which was set off perfectly by the splendid weather. Dominik Dinkel / Christina Kohl were highly motivated going into the four trails on the Friday afternoon and, after the first, were in a strong third place overall. In their Brose Skoda Fabia R5, they even left one of the two more powerful Ford Fiesta World Rally Cars (WRC) trailing in their wake – as well as six R5 cars that were technically on a par with theirs and some of which were driven by experienced pilots who have years of intimate knowledge of the routes in the Lavanttal Valley. However, a bigger headache than the competition was caused by their own brakes, which were put under great strain on the uphill and downhill tracks and overheated, resulting in a significant decline in their effect. After the second trial, Dinkel and Kohl had therefore slipped back to fourth. Then the rear left-hand wheel bearing also gave up the ghost, emitting sparks and so generating further unwanted heat. That affected the adjacent brake caliper so badly that its seals began to leak brake fluid. Dominik Dinkel had to haul himself over the fourth trial with foresighted driving and the help of the handbrake. Nevertheless, he and Christina Kohl were able to claim fifth position overall. In the final service break on the Friday, the experienced technicians from the Baumschlager Rally & Racing team pulled out all the stops, fitted the Brose Skoda with completely new tires, replaced the wheel bearing along with the housing, and gave the car a thorough examination.
The Fabia R5 functioned flawlessly on the Saturday. Dominik Dinkel and Christina Kohl quickly regained their trust in the car and had moved back up into fourth after the seventh trial. On the next trial, however, their right-hand front tire suffered a puncture, costing them the position they had just reconquered. They tried to strike back right away and produced a top time on the mixed asphalt/gravel surface on the Mosern-Ettweg circuit, covering the 10.48 kilometers in just six tenths of a second more than the WRC pilot Gerwald Grössing, who would finish the rally in second. They tackled the next trial full of zest: A place in the top five was definitely possible, despite all the adversities so far. However, that was thwarted yet again by tire damage, which set in as they were chasing a top time after about half of the 19.6-kilometer Remsnegger-Thürn stage. Dominik Dinkel / Christina Kohl fell back to eighth. They still faced a loop over two trials and were itching to prove what they are capable of. Yet that came to nothing: the Skoda’s engine suddenly stopped on their second run over the Mosern-Ettweg circuit. It was able to be restarted after some time and resetting of the electronics and the Brose team was able to finish the trial in the car.
A cause for the mysterious incident was not able to be ascertained quickly. Dominik Dinkel and Christina Kohl therefore reluctantly withdrew from the final trial. As Dominic noted: “We’d have loved to have competed in it. But at the end of the day the risk of the engine suddenly giving out when you really needed it was just too great after the time we’d previously lost due to brake and tire problems.” That was understandable, given the frequent combination of hard embankments on one side and deep chasms on the other. The 25-year-old from Upper Franconia added: “Our decision to retire was also swayed by consideration of the organizer, who had staged a great rally. There was no way we wanted to block the road after perhaps coming to a halt at one of the narrow passages and so risk cancellation of the trial.”
The Brose rally team demonstrated maturity and fairness with that attitude. Even though it did not win a cup, it drew positives from the trip to Carinthia. “Our speed’s enough for us to compete with the top teams at all times, even on completely new and difficult routes. We’ve definitely proven that. We’ve been able to add further details to our existing system of making notes and so perfected the already very fine cooperation in the cockpit between Christina and me even further.” His co-pilot added: “So much bad luck at a single rally is thankfully a very rare occurrence. That’s why we feel very confident that things will go smoothly for us again as usual at the next events.”
If the 30-year-old from Tiefenbach near Passau is right, then the Brose rally team ought to capture the lead in the German Rally Championship after the 31st ADAC Rally “Rund um die Sulingen Bärenklaue” on May 4 and 5. “We’ll give our all to thank our sponsors, our backer Michael Stoschek and our team for their magnificent support and the trust they’ve put in us.”