WRC

Rally New Zealand: Leg two summary

Ford remained firmly in control of Rally New Zealand during today's rainswept second leg. Marcus Grönholm and Timo Rautiainen, who have led since the opening kilometre yesterday, extended their lead over team-mates Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo ...

Ford remained firmly in control of Rally New Zealand during today's rainswept second leg. Marcus Grönholm and Timo Rautiainen, who have led since the opening kilometre yesterday, extended their lead over team-mates Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen to 50.3sec with just one day remaining of this penultimate round of the FIA World Rally Championship. Dani Sordo (Citroen) steadily pulled away from Manfred Stohl (Peugeot) in their third place battle this morning as Stohl struggled on tyres that were too hard in the wet and mud. But on the opening test this afternoon the Austrian regained the third place he lost late yesterday and pulled clear. Xevi Pons (Citroen) in fifth was closing on both until he hit a rock and punctured a tyre on the first afternoon stage, dropping a few seconds. Petter Solberg (Subaru) maintained sixth despite intercom problems and a broken front driveshaft this morning. Chris Atkinson (Subaru) was in fine form this morning, winning two stages. However, the Australian retired on the first stage this afternoon when he hit a rock and damaged the front left suspension, sliding off the road at the next corner as a result. He will not restart tomorrow. Henning Solberg (Peugeot) held seventh until the Norwegian rolled on the penultimate test and dropped 14 minutes. Motorcycling's multi-world champion Valentino Rossi (Subaru) lies 13th on only his second world rally.

Team News:

Kronos Total Citroen

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.

Xevi Pons/Carlos Del Barrio: "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/Marc: "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!"

OMV-Peugeot Norway

On the second day of Rally New Zealand the OMV Peugeot Norway World Rally Team can rejoice with Manfred Stohl. The 34-year-old Austrian fought a duel with Citroen works driver Dani Sordo and finally overtook him on the ninth special stage. Thus the OMV driver lies in third place after eleven of 17 special stages. Henning Solberg was less lucky. The Norwegian overturned on the tenth special stage and thereby lost over 14 minutes. Manfred Stohl/Ilka Minor: "Suddenly everything went smoothly. We were able to keep up a very high pace. But there is still a very tough day ahead. We definitely mustn't ease up on Sunday."

Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud: "It happened in a left turn," said Solberg. "We got too far on the outside and rolled down over an embankment. Since we ended up lying on the roof fans had to help us set the car right again. That took a long while."

BP-Ford

Ford World Rally Team remained firmly in control of Rally New Zealand during today's rainswept second leg. Marcus Grönholm and Timo Rautiainen, who have led since the opening kilometre yesterday, extended their lead over team-mates Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen to 50.3sec with just one day remaining of this penultimate round of the FIA World Rally Championship. Both drivers are at the wheel of Ford Focus RS World Rally Cars. Marcus Grönholm/Timo Rautiainen: "This afternoon I had a few troubles with my windscreen wipers, which I had to keep switching on and off to get them to work. I'm happy with the way the day has gone and it's great to have Mikko up there at the top with me. I'm thinking about the finish and getting there without doing anything stupid but the Whaanga Coast stage is used twice tomorrow and that's long and difficult."

Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen: "This afternoon's stages were just fantastic. I had the perfect tyre choice and despite the rain I really enjoyed those flowing roads. I wish every stage I drove was like those two."

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford

Teenage rally hero Matthew Wilson turned in a consistent and quick performance in his Stobart VK M-Sport Ford rally team Focus RS WRC 06 on today's second leg of Rally New Zealand, the penultimate round of this season's FIA World Rally Championship. The 19-year-old rocketed back up the Rally New Zealand leaderboard during today's six stages north-west of the event's host city of Hamilton, after clipping a rock and damaging a water pipe on leg one.

Wilson's team-mate Luis Perez Companc also had plenty to celebrate this evening. Despite a spin in the morning, Companc moved up one place on his overnight eighth, to claim a fantastic leg two seventh position - potentially his best result for the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford team.

Matthew Wilson/Michael Orr: "We've been running first on the road this morning, which hasn't been too bad. In fact, I think it's possibly the best place to be. The surface has been really slippery, but the gravel has bound together quite well which has helped us. After losing the water from the engine yesterday, we are keeping an eye on the temperature - but everything seems fine. I had a half-spin at the end of the last stage this morning, which was annoying. I think the note was a bit too optimistic: we kept sliding wider and wider, eventually we stopped. This afternoon was good. Again, I really enjoyed the stages, they're mega fun. We lost the windscreen wipers just before the start of the last long stage, which was a pain. It was okay for most of the stage, but then it started to rain for the last eight kilometres, which wasn't much fun. It was tricky, there was so much water in the screen - I really couldn't see anything. I was listening to the notes and pushing where I knew it was a bit straighter."

Luis Perez Companc/Jose-Maria Volta: "The weather wasn't so good this morning, it's been tough. The roads were really narrow and difficult, harder than yesterday. Everything was okay, though, through the first couple of stages, but then five kilometres into the last stage we slid wide and hit a rock with the right-rear wheel, which damaged the suspension. I couldn't get the car turned around, it was so narrow. I had to go back up the stage one corner before I could get it in the right direction again. Once I had managed that, I then had to stop so I could get my seat belts on again. It cost me quite a lot of time. After that problem, I just wanted to focus on getting to the finish through the afternoon. We picked up a couple of places and that's where I want to stay until the finish."

Subaru

The Subaru World Rally Team experienced an up-and-down day, although both drivers showed flashes of pace after overnight set-up changes took the performance of the cars in the right direction. Chris Atkinson was the star of the morning and set two fastest stage times, but on the first of the afternoon's tests he collided with a rock and was forced into retirement. Petter Solberg, who was celebrating his 32nd birthday, finished the leg in sixth, but some quick times in the afternoon moved him to within striking distance of fifth-placed Xavier Pons.

Petter Solberg/Phil Mills: "It's been quite tough for us, with a few problems in the morning and tyre choices that didn't turn out to be the best for the variable conditions. There are some positives though, the car felt better to drive today - even without the right tyres - and as the roads were less twisty than yesterday the car worked better and we were able to be more competitive. But we still need more traction, that's the main thing. Tomorrow we'll try some new things and you can be sure that I'll push as hard as I can."

Chris Atkinson/Glen MacNeall: "We were trying to push on after some good fastest stage times this morning when an open wheel just caught a rock over a blind crest and took the tyre off. It was just one of those rallying incidents; I think everyone else would have hit it if they had been in my position - they were all swerving to avoid it when we were warning them. It wasn't our rally anyway, so I'm not going to get too disheartened. In fact, up to that point today things had been pretty encouraging; the car was working a lot better, we could push more and I was really enjoying myself, it's nice to be able to do that."

Red Bull Skoda

Skoda are not entered in New Zealand

-credit: rallyenewsletter.com

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