Overnight leader Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) extended his advantage with fastest time on the first two stages. The Frenchman then controlled his pace before adding a stunning win in the 31.73km Bull test where he was fastest by almost 17 seconds. ...
Overnight leader Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) extended his advantage with fastest time on the first two stages. The Frenchman then controlled his pace before adding a stunning win in the 31.73km Bull test where he was fastest by almost 17 seconds. He leads by 51.9sec. Marcus Gronholm (Peugeot) and Petter Solberg (Subaru) enjoyed a thrilling battle for second. The Finn held a narrow advantage initially before Solberg moved ahead, only for Gronholm to regain second during the afternoon loop. They are split by just 6.8sec tonight. Francois Duval (Citroen) could not match their pace and he is fourth. Chris Atkinson (Subaru) was unable to hold onto the Gardemeister / Martin battle this afternoon but has a comfortable advantage over Gigi Galli (Mitsubishi). Galli spun on stage 13, and both the Italian and team-mate Harri Rovanpera lost time in the next test when the rubber on their tyres pulled away from the rim.
The final day is based around the classic west coast stages near Raglan, 160km south of Auckland. After leaving the city at 06.30, drivers will tackle two loops of two speed tests, covering 87.29km, before returning to Auckland for the finish ceremony at 15.30. Both loops contain the famous Whaanga Coast test, which hugs the Tasman Sea coastline and is rated by many as the best stage in the entire championship.
Take 2.! To the delight of everyone in the Citroën team, the story of Rally New Zealand's second leg was practically identical to that of Day 1, with Sebastien Loeb, Daniel Elena and their Xsara more or less level pegging with their direct rivals during the morning's loop before pulling clear in the second to extend their lead over their immediate chasers to around the minute mark.
Sebastien Loeb / Daniel Elena: After posting fastest times through 'Wairere' (SS9) and 'Cassidy 1' (SS10), Sebastien was forced to settle for the third best time - 4.5s down - in 'Bull 1'. "I had something of a moment a third of the way into this stage," related the Citroën driver. "I braked too late for a fourth-gear right-hander and I went wide, with the rear trailing in the ditch. So as not to send the car into a spin, I kept my foot hard to the floor and opposite-locked but the backlash as I pulled clear of the ditch sent me into the opposite side ditch. After another visit to the left-hand ditch, I finally managed to get the car back in line.. Then I slowed it down a little until the end of the stage." By the end of the morning, the French crew had pulled a further 0.5s clear of Petter Solberg and a further 10.8s clear of Marcus Gronholm.
Francois Duval / Stephane Prevot: Consistently 3rd or 4th in terms of stage times, Francois Duval's only problem concerned his brakes in 'Bull 2'. "I began to lose the brakes 10 km from the finish and I did the last 8 km with the pedal to the floor." This technical problem was the day's only upset for Guy Frequelin: "Where I was watching, halfway into the day, Francois was up on Marcus and Petter and he still bagged the third best time. We know that Francois asks a lot of his brakes. The very high quality pads used on his car are also the pads that wear out the quickest. We need to solve this problem and go further down the road of adapting the car to his driving style in order to enable him to attack freely."
Petter Solberg scored three stage wins and moved up from fourth to third position on Rally New Zealand today. Despite having to use tyres that weren't ideally suited to the dry and hot conditions, the Norwegian pushed hard to reach the top-three and is on course to achieve his objective of a podium finish tomorrow. Chris Atkinson continued to learn aboard his Subaru Impreza WRC2005, setting some impressive split times and experimenting with his car's set-up and tyres. On only his third event in a WRC-class car, Chris holds overnight seventh place.
Petter Solberg / Phil Mills: It's almost they same as yesterday - the first time through we're fastest, and the second time we're struggling. It seems the other teams have an advantage on the repeated stages, they have a different tyre and it's working well. I tried my best to change my driving style to cut down the wear, but it's very difficult to do anything. Tomorrow will be a very interesting day. Marcus and I will have a good fight in the morning I think, but in the afternoon, unless we get some rain, I think we will struggle. Of course I want to win every rally I start, but I can honestly say that I will be happy to finish third tomorrow!
Chris Atkinson/Glen Macneall: It's been another useful day and we've learned a lot about the new car and this event. Like Petter we had a few problems with tyre wear on the later stages, but overall the set-up changes we've made have taken us in the right direction. In terms of pace, I'm happy with the speed that we had today, we weren't pushing hard or taking risks and were able to experiment with a few different settings. We're not chasing World Championships yet, just the experience.
BP-Ford World Rally Team drivers Toni Gardemeister and Jakke Honkanen ended today's second leg of the Rally New Zealand in fifth place after a tremendous three-car battle through the lush North Island countryside. The Finns fought for every tenth of a second in their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car, aided by Michelin's newly developed tyres which were again perfectly suited to the conditions in the warm afternoon temperatures.
Toni Gardemeister/Jakke Honkanen: "We enjoyed a better morning than yesterday," he said. "All the stages were new to me. I've driven the first two in the opposite direction, but none of them this way around. The opening stage was quite damp, in fact there was almost mud in places. The others were quite dry but there was a lot of loose gravel on the road towards the end of stage 11 and it was slippery. We pushed hard on all three tests and I lost a little time when I slid wide at a corner on the opening stage. It was very humid and inside the car it felt like I was sitting in a sauna."
Roman Kresta/Jan Mozny: Withdrew after shakedown accident
Some overnight rain made tyre choice difficult for the second leg, which consisted of two loops of three stages (two of which were repeated in the afternoon). The first stage was still very damp, but conditions then remained entirely dry throughout the leg. Both drivers made differing tyre choices but they were happy with their selections. After a tough fight, Gronholm lost his second place to Solberg.
Marcus Gronholm / Timo Rautiainen: "It's clear that we are not going to win this rally, and while I never like finishing second that is the best we can do here now. Today has been OK but the problem is simply that Sebastien is quicker than us and there is nothing more we can do about it. For the last loop of stages I tried some new tyres that were the best choice we have made throughout the whole rally. Now it is a question of just driving to the finish and trying to keep Petter behind. That will not be easy - he has been very quick and I have a big fight on my hands. Still, I like that!"
Markko Martin/Michael Park: "Today has not been a perfect day, but we have not had any problems with the car and we have learnt a lot. I'm still not entirely confident with the handling, but it is still very early days for me. I've already thought of a couple of things I would like to change for the future. I've also been getting to grips with the range of Pirelli tyres today - we've tried a lot of different things. Conditions on this rally have been quite difficult; it's certainly not the easiest event to be learning new things on. Tomorrow I will just keep on going at a pace I feel comfortable with: there's no point in taking big risks just for a fifth place."
The Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports WRC team remains on course to score points for the fourth consecutive event in the 2005 FIA World Rally Championship. While the team has suffered some technical set-backs over the last two days, "Gigi" Galli is nevertheless in the provisional points in eighth, with team-mate Harri Rovanpera ninth in the second Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05
Harri Rovanpera/Risto Pietilainen: "This morning there was a tire vibration; sometimes it was quite strong and other times not", said Harri. "It disturbed my concentration a bit; it was like seeing four roads at the same time! Then this afternoon, about 20 kilometers into SS14, the rear left tire seemed to burst and we had to finish the stage with a completely flat and destroyed tire".
Gigi Galli/Guido D'Amore: I'm not really that happy at the end of the day, but I tried my best", said Gigi. "Our tire problem was disappointing this afternoon and we were not in a position to show any real pace, but tomorrow is another day and we will continue to try our best over the long stages".
Armin Schwarz and Janne Tuohino finished the second day of Rally New Zealand in 11th and 12th places respectively. The two ©koda Motorsport World Rally Team drivers were seeded at the head of the field for today's leg and suffered dramatically from this poor start position although both drivers still managed top 10 times. Overnight rain did little to help the road conditions as any humidity quickly burned off on a morning of high ambient temperatures, a major disadvantage to cars running at the head of the field on treacherously loose gravel.
Janne Tuohino/Mikko Markkula: "I couldn't do anything with this road position today - it was so very slippery and every time I accelerated the car would slide everywhere. My only real problem this morning came on SS11 when I got really hot inside the car and discovered that the roof vent had worked shut. Saunas are fine for Finns but not like this! We fitted the hardest compound Michelin tyres for this afternoon's stages and that was the right choice. "
Armin Schwarz/Klaus Wicha: "This morning's first stage was quite damp but after that the loose gravel was much worse than yesterday and we could only try to keep the car on what little clean road there was. On SS9 I hit three big turkeys that ran across the road while I was flat in sixth gear and I was worried that the impact may have damaged the radiator but we reached service and everything was OK."