WRC

Rally New Zealand: Leg one summary

Ford World Rally Team dominated today's opening leg of Rally New Zealand as Marcus Grönholm and Timo Rautiainen and team-mates Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen powered into first and second respectively. Grönholm completed a clean sweep by ...

Ford World Rally Team dominated today's opening leg of Rally New Zealand as Marcus Grönholm and Timo Rautiainen and team-mates Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen powered into first and second respectively. Grönholm completed a clean sweep by winning all five speed tests in his Focus RS World Rally Car to lead the similar vehicle of Hirvonen, who was second fastest on four special stages, by 31.2sec. Manfred Stohl (Peugeot) was the closest challenger to the BP-Ford duo, the Austrian holding third throughout the day. However, he spun and hit a bank on the fourth stage, causing overheating problems, and Dani Sordo (Citroen) slipped by into third on the final stage. Petter Solberg (Subaru) struggled with a lack of traction, especially this morning. The Norwegian held fifth initially but Xevi Pons (Citroen) moved ahead this afternoon, the Spaniard recovering from handling problems and two spins on the first stage. Henning Solberg (Peugeot) was seventh, despite water leaking from the engine onto his feet this morning. Chris Atkinson (Subaru) also struggled for traction and lost more time with a first stage spin. The Australian is ninth. The only major retirement was Matthew Wilson (Ford), who stopped near the finish of stage three after an impact with a rock caused water loss from the engine and overheating.

Kronos Total Citroen

At the end of the short final spectator superspecial stage at Mystery Creek, which surrounds the service park, the two Citroens of Dani Sordo/Marc Marti and Xevi Pons/Carlos Del Barrio, finish the day in third and fifth places respectively.

Xevi Pons/Carlos Del Barrio: " I spun on the opening stage, Pirongia. A bit further on in the same stage I was distracted by rising water temperatures and so I spun again. After that I drove very much within myself on Te Kohara 1. On the second run through the stages though, everything went brilliantly. Not even three punctures slowed me down, thanks to the anti-deflation mousse. With a perfect car, I was able to make back a lot of lost ground. It's a good omen as we head into the second leg tomorrow, as I feel very much at home on these flowing roads. "

Dani Sordo/Marc: "As everybody told me, driving on these roads is enormous fun - particularly on the faster sections. It's important to know how to slow down the rhythm on certain more twisty bits before picking up the pace again as quickly as possible. I'm very pleased to see that my pace notes are good : I only made a few adjustments to them after the first run through the stages. As for tyre choice, I had no problems at all with my soft BFGoodrich tyres in the morning nor with the medium compound rubber in the afternoon. I had two punctures, but I did not lose any time thanks to the anti-deflation mousse."

OMV-Peugeot Norway

The OMV Peugeot Norway World Rally Team has stood their ground on day one of the "Propecia Rally New Zealand". Manfred Stohl is on the course for a podium place despite several minor problems. The 34-year-old OMV driver lies in fourth place after five of 17 special stages. Henning Solberg, who had to wrestle with a broken water conduit in the beginning, still managed to finish the first day in seventh overall place.

Manfred Stohl/Ilka Minor: "The spin was my fault. In a way I was punished by breaking out into a cold sweat now and then during the 20 kilometres from the fourth special stage to the service, wondering whether we were going to make it with the damaged radiator. Luckily, we did indeed make it. Unluckily, I did gamble away a nice lead by this. But I am sure that we will once again be able to keep up the pace of Grönholm und Hirvonen on Saturday."

Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud: "Just like in Cyprus the water conduit for sprinkling the radiator broke. Since this conduit passes the dashboard my shoes were suddenly in the water. Thus the pedals became extremely slippery and one loses concentration. In the afternoon things went better. But it still was difficult to find the right speed."

BP-Ford

BP-Ford World Rally Team dominated today's opening leg of Rally New Zealand as Marcus Grönholm and Timo Rautiainen and team-mates Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen powered into first and second respectively. Grönholm completed a clean sweep by winning all five speed tests in his Focus RS World Rally Car to lead the similar vehicle of Hirvonen, who was second fastest on four special stages, by 31.2sec.

Marcus Grönholm/Timo Rautiainen: "I've been driving steadily rather than at maximum pace so to be leading is a good position. The biggest pressure has come from Mikko. He has good confidence and is driving well. I would really like to win this rally so I will try hard to stay ahead of him. It was muddy this morning but drier with good grip this afternoon. Last night's rain helped me with my road position. I hit a few stones but nothing to worry about. The first three stages tomorrow are new but I know the afternoon stages well so I will push hard through those tests."

Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen: "They are heavily cambered and this morning I was braking the wrong side of the camber which made the car slide into the corners. I made a new differential map last week on the Rally GB test which worked well in the UK. However, the stages are different here and it didn't work so well for me so I made changes at the lunchtime service."

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford

South America's fastest rally driver Luis Perez Companc ended the opening leg of Rally New Zealand in a sensational, point-scoring position for the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford team. Companc was on scintillating form through today's five stages - four of which ran to the south-west of the event's Hamilton city base. Companc's team-mate, 19-year-old Briton Matthew Wilson retired from a top 10 position after an impact with a rock caused water loss from his engine, resulting in the unit overheating and forcing him into leg one retirement. The decision on whether or not Wilson will re-start under SupeRally rules will be taken after the team have a chance to inspect the engine.

Matthew Wilson/Michael Orr: "I had great fun this morning, but not so much fun this afternoon. The roads are fantastic, just as good as everybody says. I had a spin on the first stage, it was in a slow left hander, just coming into a hairpin. I dropped about 10 seconds with that, but otherwise it was fine. There are a few corners where I'm coming out and thinking we could have been a gear higher through there. That's not a major problem on my first attempt at this event, which is fairly specialised, but it's frustrating when those corners lead onto a long straight and you know just how much more speed you could be carrying down the straight. Everything went a little bit wrong this afternoon. I'm obviously really disappointed with what happened, I didn't hit anything but the wheel clipped a rock and I think maybe a pipe was broken. The consequence is very bad, and that's how I feel: really bad. To come to the other side of the world and this is what happens is not good."

Luis Perez Companc/Jose-Maria Volta: "I found the roads really slippery this morning. The overnight rain was quite heavy I think and the slippery nature came from the rain and the mud, probably being pulled out from the cars ahead, rather than the loose gravel on top of the road. The car is working so well, we have no problems from it at all. Sometimes, it is actually quite hard to keep the car on the road in the conditions, but we're managing to do that and enjoy ourselves at the same time. I thought our road position would be working well for us today, but it seems to be the opposite way around. This afternoon, the stages were much drier and the grip more constant, which made things a little bit easier. To be in the points is good news for me and the team."

Subaru

The Subaru World Rally Team has two cars within the top ten at the end of the first leg. Petter Solberg holds sixth position, with team-mate Chris Atkinson in ninth spot. Petter and Chris had a tough morning and both drivers struggled to find grip on gravel roads made treacherous by heavy rain the previous night. As the weather brightened and the roads dried in the afternoon, so did the team's fortunes. Some set-up tweaks at first service improved the car and Petter was fourth fastest on stage four, the longest of the rally. Chris and Petter were respectively second and third quickest through the final stage of the day, the Mystery Creek Super Special.

Petter Solberg/Phil Mills: "The day improved as it went on, and the last two stages were better than when we ran them in the morning. We made some changes to the car at the midday service and on the high-speed sections of SS4 we were the fastest out there, but we're still losing time on the twisty sections, and that's what we need to concentrate on now. Tomorrow the character of the stages is a little bit different, hopefully they should suit us better, we'll have to see."

Chris Atkinson/Glen MacNeall: "We just haven't had the speed today, for whatever reason. We're working on that, but I don't feel confident to push so I'm not taking any risks and I'm just making sure I get through the stages. The car felt better in the afternoon but the conditions were very different, so it was difficult to compare and get any useful information. For tomorrow a lot will depend on the weather and our road position; if it's dry and we're first on the road then it'll be very tough, if it's wet then it should be better. We've given away a lot of time today, but we'll do all we can to improve our position tomorrow."

6. Red Bull Skoda

Skoda are not entered in New Zealand

-credit: rallye-newsletter.com

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Marcus Gronholm , Petter Solberg , Timo Rautiainen , Manfred Stohl , Mikko Hirvonen , Marc Marti , Jarmo Lehtinen , Henning Solberg , Cato Menkerud , Ilka Minor , Matthew Wilson , Michael Orr , Chris Atkinson
Teams Citroën World Rally Team , M-Sport