For its first participation in the "event at the opposite side of the planet", the CitroÃ«n team has discovered Rally New Zealand and its typical changing weather conditions for the autumn season. The first leg took place in the area of Paparoa,...
For its first participation in the "event at the opposite side of the planet", the Citroën team has discovered Rally New Zealand and its typical changing weather conditions for the autumn season.
The first leg took place in the area of Paparoa, 140 kilometres north of Auckland : sudden showers followed clear blue sky all day long.
In these wet conditions, the three Xsaras experienced a difficult start due to visibility problems. "In SS2, I was surprised by the rain", explained Sebastien. "I immediately started the heating on the electric windscreen, but by the time the ventilation worked, my windscreen was completely foggy." After a first loop of three stages, the Citroën drivers had lost contact with the leaders.
As expected the Xsaras of Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz still had to act as "sweepers" for those following them. Sebastien Loeb benefited from a better starting position and showed once again excellent learning skills on a terrain that he was still discovering.
The third part of leg 1 offered identical conditions for all crews, as they drove four of the morning's stages for a second pass through. Ready to attack in these favourable circumstances, Colin hit a bank with the left front part of the car and had to retire with a broken compression strut.
Carlos Sainz did not benefit from the situation : the suspension set-up was modified but did not show 100% efficiency. He returned to the final service in eighth position.
Sebastien Loeb lies in sixth place, an encouraging result for a "rookie" on this event.
With two cars in the points, Citroën finished this first day satisfied. Guy Frequelin remained perplexed however : "We lost some time this morning because of a problem that was not linked to the pure performance of the car. And I can't really measure the actual loss due to the sweeping. Helped by what I've seen in the stages, I have the feeling that we aren't really where we would like to be. We still have two legs to improve this."