Sixty-six of the original 81 starters left a bright and sunny Auckland this morning to begin Leg two of Rally New Zealand. Crews checked out of parc ferme from 0600hrs and made the 183km journey north to the day's central service point at Ruawai,...
Sixty-six of the original 81 starters left a bright and sunny Auckland this morning to begin Leg two of Rally New Zealand. Crews checked out of parc ferme from 0600hrs and made the 183km journey north to the day's central service point at Ruawai, around which the Leg's 10 stages were based.
From the first stage it became clear that the roads to the north suited the Peugeots just as well as those in the south had on Leg one. The trio of Burns, Gronholm and Rovanpera seemed unstoppable and were the three quickest cars on the first six tests of the day. From the rest of the competition only 555 Subaru drivers Petter Solberg and Tommi Mäkinen could get anywhere near the silver machines, and for the whole day there was a consistent Peugeot, Subaru result at the top of the stage sheets.
The day saw two significant retirements. Markko Martin's early exit on SS14 made it impossible for Ford to get a serious points finish and enabled Peugeot to clinch the 2002 Manufacturers' Championship. Most crucial though was the departure of Richard Burns who crashed out of the lead on SS15. With Burns out of the title race, and barring a miracle for eighth-placed Gilles Panizzi, Marcus Gronholm will regain the WRC Drivers' title he won in 2000.
- Please note: both titles subject to FIA approval.
SS9 0913hrs Mititai Finish (20.15km)
Fastest time: Burns (Peugeot) 10:05.2
Richard Burns started Leg 2 at the same flat-out pace as yesterday. He was fastest, with Peugeot team-mates Gronholm and Rovanpera second and third respectively. Best of the rest once again was the 555 Subaru team, with Petter Solberg fourth and Tommi Mäkinen fifth. The result catapulted the young Norwegian two places up the overall table into fourth, ahead of Paasonen and Mäkinen.
SS10 0951hrs Tokatoka 1 (10.15km)
Fastest time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 5:09.9
Another 1-2-3 for the 206 trio. This time Marcus Gronholm had the edge over Burns and kept in touch with the overall lead of the rally - the gap between him and second-placed Harri Rovanpera was down to 6.2 seconds, while Burns kept a 32 second lead. Mitsubishi's McRae understudy, Jani Paasonen was fourth with Mäkinen and Solberg fifth and sixth. Afterwards crews returned to the Ruawai service area, to prepare for the mammoth 59km Parahi/Ararua test.
SS11 1101hrs Parahi / Ararua (59.00km)
Fastest time: Burns (Peugeot) 33:37.7
Excluding the unique challenge of the Safari, the Parahi stage is the longest in the WRC and a stern test for driver, car and tyre endurance. Peugeot maintained their stranglehold on the event, with Richard Burns quickest, followed by Gronholm and then Rovanpera. Gronholm overtook Rovanpera on the overall standings and took second place. Despite knocking a rear window out after a collision with a post-box Solberg was next fastest, with Mäkinen four seconds back in fifth. Mitsubishi's run of promising form courtesy of Jani Paasonen's came to an abrupt end when the Finn rolled his car 8kms from the start. He and co-driver Arto Kapanen were uninjured but were unable to continue. In the overall standings Peugeot maintained their 1-2-3 positions, with the Subaru's of Solberg and Mäkinen fourth and fifth. After the time control, crews headed back to service at Ruawai.
SS12 1413hrs Batley (17.46km)
Fastest time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 9:36.4
The first of a group of four stages without a service brought another straight win for the leading Peugeots, this time with Gronholm fastest, Burns second and Rovanpera third. Having overtaken Rovanpera into second place overall on the previous stage, Gronholm was now 18 secs ahead of his compatriot and 42 secs behind Burns. Solberg was fourth fastest, with Sainz fifth.
SS13 1441hrs Waipu Gorge (11.24km)
Fastest time: Burns (Peugeot) 6:25.5
Peugeot followed by Subaru followed by everybody else. It was a familiar story on SS13. The Peugeot order this time was Burns, Gronholm, then Rovanpera. While at the 555 Subaru camp Solberg had the edge over Mäkinen by five seconds.
SS14 1459hrs Brooks (16.03km)
Fastest time: Burns (Peugeot) 9:37.1
Exactly the same top five as SS13, but an especially significant stage for Peugeot. Subject to FIA confirmation, the French team clinched the 2003 WRC Manufacturers' title when Ford's Markko Martin crashed and retired five kilometres before the end. Markko and co-driver Michael Park were uninjured in the accident, but were lucky to escape a further incident, when another competitor crashed in the same place and drove into their stricken car. Solberg and Mäkinen - fourth and fifth.
SS15 1527hrs Paparoa Station (11.64km)
Fastest time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 6:11.9
Disaster for Burns. Just as he was nearing the end of the stage the rally leader rolled his Peugeot off the road and into retirement. Richard and co-driver Robert Reid were shaken but uninjured in the crash. The result all but handed Marcus Gronholm the 2002 WRC Drivers' title. The only person mathematically able to stop him is Gilles Panizzi who needs to win here, in Australia and in GB. Currently lying eighth more than five minutes off the lead, it looks a highly unlikely scenario. On the overall table, the retirement moved Gronholm into the lead, with Rovanpera 31 seconds behind and Solberg a further 1m 19s back in third. Mäkinen holds fourth, despite losing time on with a spin 300metres from the start line. After the stage, crews made their way back to Ruawai for a 20-minute service ahead of the Leg's three final tests.
SS16 1717hrs New Cassidy (21.64km)
Fastest time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 12:16.0
Gronholm showed no sign of relaxing and powered through to take the stage win. Ever consistent, Rovanpera was second, but Marcus extended the lead over his colleague by more than 10 seconds. The familiar 555 Subaru formation of Solberg and Mäkinen were third and fourth respectively.
SS17 1800hrs Mititai (26.67km)
Fastest time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 13:32.8
Petter Solberg became the only driver on the rally so far to challenge the two leading Peugeots. His second-fastest time equalled that of Harri Rovanpera, and was a full seven seconds quicker than next quickest, Carlos Sainz, who was driving flat out to try and catch Tommi Mäkinen.
SS18 1843hrs Tokatoka 2 (10.15km)
Fastest time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 5:18.4
Another win for Gronholm, but a triumph for Solberg who was quicker than Rovanpera on the stage and take the runner up position. The Impreza driver, who won both Super Specials last night pulled 1m 03s ahead of teammate Mäkinen who was fourth on the stage.
555 SWRT Quotes
Petter Solberg: "I've been doing my best today, pushing like hell and it's been enough for Tommi, Ford and Hyundai, but sadly not for Marcus and Harri. I'm very happy, and as it was on the third leg here last year that I heard my son had been born, I'll drive for him tomorrow. I want another podium place and I'm not going to let it go."
Tommi Mäkinen: "We've had a few small things today, but we've moved up and there has been no need to push - we've not been in a hurry. From now on I'll keep pushing, it's important for me to finish strongly tomorrow."
David Lapworth: "Overall we've seen a good solid performance from both drivers today. They have consolidated their positions behind the leaders, with no technical problems at all. But as we saw with Richard Burns today, anything can happen and we'll try for further improvements tomorrow."