The Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports WRC team heads to the fourth round of the 2005 FIA World Rally Championship in New Zealand third in the series for manufacturers and buoyed by its third consecutive double-points haul in MÃ©xico just weeks ago.
The Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports WRC team heads to the fourth round of the 2005 FIA World Rally Championship in New Zealand third in the series for manufacturers and buoyed by its third consecutive double-points haul in México just weeks ago. Harri Rovanperä and Risto Pietiläinen once again lead the team’s assault, while team-mates “Gigi” Galli and Guido D’Amore make the long journey to the other side of the world to pilot the team’s second Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05. The event is also the second round of the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship and has, as usual, drawn a host of national and international Mitsubishi crews.
“New Zealand is not a rough rally, but there’s always a question mark over the weather because it can be quite different if it’s good or bad,” said Mario Fornaris, the team’s Technical Director. “The Lancer WRC05 will be the same specification as México and we will be able to confirm our reliability in New Zealand, along with a good driver line-up. Harri has a very good record there, good experience and in the past he’s always felt comfortable in this rally. For Gigi it is obviously something new and I think when you get this type of opportunity to go so far and take part in this type of rally, he has to capitalize on the opportunity. His target will be to finish, while for Harri it is an event where he can be very fast.”
The 2005 Rally New Zealand marks Harri Rovanperä’s eighth visit to a country widely regarded as having the best rally roads in the world. While the Finn has retired on three occasions, it nevertheless also represents one his most successful events with no fewer than two podium positions in the FIA World Rally Championship - third in 2001 and second in 2002 - as well as a victory in the World 2 Liter category in 1998. He also finished fifth last year.
“I don’t really know why New Zealand has been so good to me, but for sure it’s one of my best and certainly a favorite,” said Harri, who has been relaxing in Lapland since Rally México. “The roads are very nice, it’s a quick event and the gravel is also nice; not bumpy or rough. It is quite a technical rally and not so easy because of the constantly changing camber on the road, but it works well for me. One thing that is very important though is to have a really good car and a lot of confidence in everything; then it all comes together.”
Team-mate Gigi Galli has only previously competed in New Zealand once and an accident in Mitsubishi’s Group N machinery last year brought the Italian’s charge to a premature halt. He and Guido D’Amore nevertheless put in a stunning performance on the first loose surface event of the 2005 season in Sweden - holding fourth in only their fifth event together in a world rally car - and will be looking to build on that experience to claim another impressive finish for Mitsubishi.
“For us, New Zealand is a very new rally and our experience is very very small,” said Gigi. “I have already discussed our strategy with the team and everyone agrees that it is important to get to the finish, understand more and have the same philosophy we have had all season. Therefore, our goal will be to finish, and look for some points for Mitsubishi Motors. That is all, nothing else. I hope to enjoy the rally, but then I enjoy myself every time I sit in the car anyway…!”
Rally New Zealand is one of the classic gravel events in the FIA World Rally Championship calendar and a firm favorite with everyone who makes the long journey to the Southern Hemisphere. The fast and flowing roads that wind their way through spectacular farmland and forests on the North Island are universally agreed to be some of the best in the world and the emphasis is firmly on driver skill, as the smooth nature of the roads poses little demand on machinery. Many things are new this year, however; Rally HQ, the start and finish locations have moved, and this is also expected to be the only event in the series which does not comply with the recommended single-service area concept.
The event kicks off on the evening on Thursday April 7 with a ceremonial start in the new location of Waitemata Plaza, Auckland City, before the crews make the 130 kilometer journey north to Paparoa that night, ready for the opening day of action on Friday. Leg one covers eight stages and 129.22 competitive kilometers, while the second leg – also based around the service in Paparoa – takes in another six stages before returning to Auckland for two runs around the famous Manukau Super Special stage on the outskirts of the city. On Sunday, the service park moves to Western Springs, just five kilometers west of the city, for two identical loops of two stages – some of the most famous in the event – before the finish back at Waitemata Plaza at 15:30 hrs (local). In total, the 2005 Rally New Zealand takes in 20 special stages and 350.00 competitive kilometers in a total distance of 1,128.48 kilometers.