Solid start for Sandell in New Zealand Patrik Sandell, driving a Red Bull-backed Skoda Fabia S2000, has ended the opening day of the Rally New Zealand in fifth position of the Super 2000 runners. While the Swede is relieved to get to the end...
Solid start for Sandell in New Zealand
Patrik Sandell, driving a Red Bull-backed Skoda Fabia S2000, has ended the opening day of the Rally New Zealand in fifth position of the Super 2000 runners.
While the Swede is relieved to get to the end of the opening day, it has not been the best of starts for the Skoda driver. Patrik, who is competing in the Super 2000 World Rally Championship this year, hit a large bird on only the second stage, which damaged his windscreen and put him off his rhythm.
Rally New Zealand is a favourite of all the drivers but it is also extremely challenging, thanks to high average speeds and heavily cambered roads. It is vital to find a good pace from an early point so any distractions - such as low-flying birds - are a major inconvenience.
New Zealand is on the calendar for the first time since 2008, and today's action presented competitors with eight tough stages plus a spectator superspecial to conclude the day. The route was made up of loose gravel roads to the north of Auckland, but most of this loose gravel was swept quickly away once the first competitors had passed over the stages. Temperatures remained moderate throughout the day, without any of the rain that had been feared before the start.
Sandell, whose Skoda is run by the experienced BRR team, previously finished an excellent 11th overall on the 2008 Rally New Zealand, which gave him and his co-driver Emil Axelsson some idea of what to expect. However, the route has changed considerably since then, with today's stages being used for the first time in four years.
"This morning I didn't really have a good rhythm, but in the afternoon it was OK," said Sandell. "The car was just a bit too soft in the morning so it was difficult for us to find traction. I didn't really trust it in the fast sections, but there's still a very long way to go so anything can happen. I'm looking forward to a better day tomorrow."
His co-driver Emil Axelsson added: "The bird we hit in the morning was like an eagle: a really big one! It moved up just as we came but it was not quite fast enough to get out of the way. I think it affected Patrik's concentration for a while. It's fantastic to be here because the roads are amazing and so fast. We just need to go faster ourselves..."
The action on the second day of the Rally New Zealand revisits some classic stages as Te Akau, and also contains two runs over the all-new Hampton Downs spectator superspecial, held on a motor racing circuit. The crews get underway from Auckland at 0600, heading for eight more hectic special stages.
-source: red bull