A battle for the podium... Having finished the second day in fourth and fifth places respectively, Dani Sordo/Marc Marti and Xevi Pons/Carlos Del Barrio have not given up on their hopes of making the podium in New Zealand. They have six ...
A battle for the podium...
Having finished the second day in fourth and fifth places respectively, Dani Sordo/Marc Marti and Xevi Pons/Carlos Del Barrio have not given up on their hopes of making the podium in New Zealand. They have six more stages, comprising nearly 100 competitive kilometres, in which to do it.
For the two Kronos Total Citroen crews, it was a day of two halves : positive in the morning despite the rain and more tricky in the afternoon, under a grey sky that led to yet more rain. The action consisted of two loops of three stages, before a final run through the Mystery Creek spectator superspecial.
The first loop of stages this morning Port Waikato, Klondyke and Wairamarama (SS6-8) was new for all the crews. Port Waikato had actually been run before, but back in 1982 ! The Kronos team made the correct tyre choice for these stages in opting for soft `8' compound BFGoodrich rubber. Rain was falling from the start of the first stage and Dani made the most of his set-up to pull away from Manfred Stohl, while Xevi Pons closed in on the Austrian.
The Te Akau South and North stages that constituted the bulk of the afternoon's action have been a feature of Rally New Zealand since 2003. These stages provided a stern challenge for the Kronos drivers in their fight with Stohl who was competing in New Zealand for the sixth time. Furthermore, the Kronos tyre choice for this loop of stages slightly harder rubber proved less than ideal, particularly when a downpour fell on Te Akau North.
Xevi Pons commented : "I really enjoyed myself this morning, but my feeling in the afternoon was less good especially in the Te Akau North stage that was difficult because it was very quick and very slippery. It `s always hard to see a rival drive away from you when you have every intention to try and catch him. But our team boss Marc Van Dalen has said we are free to do what we want now, so we'll set off again tomorrow to try and reverse the trend... "
Dani Sordo, who was forced to give up his place on the podium, shares his team mate's sentiments but hopes to get third position back tomorrow. Dani commented : "I'm obviously a bit disappointed. Nonetheless, I look upon today as a learning experience that has been very fruitful. Our weather crew did a very good job this morning. Marc Marti, my co-driver, says that in his opinion Te Akau North is the best stage on the whole World Championship. Personally I'm not so sure yet... The fast and undulating roads we found this afternoon have not been the easiest I have ever driven on, but I still enjoyed myself. So maybe next year I'll agree with Marc ! "