WRC

Rally New Zealand: End of day one

Propecia Rally New Zealand Official Site: www.rallynz.org.nz Round 10 of the 2001 FIA World Rally Championship 20-23rd September 2001 Friday, 21 September 2001 Hyundai driver Kenneth Eriksson has made history by grabbing the lead on the tenth...

Propecia Rally New Zealand
Official Site: www.rallynz.org.nz
Round 10 of the 2001 FIA World Rally Championship
20-23rd September 2001

Friday, 21 September 2001

Hyundai driver Kenneth Eriksson has made history by grabbing the lead on the tenth round of the FIA World Rally Championship, the Rally New Zealand. The Swedish driver made good use of an advantageous position in the running order to move into the top position on today's final proper stage. It is the first time that the Korean manufacturer has ever led a World championship rally.

Eriksson's decision to keep pushing today was fairly rare. As expected, the early crews had to sweep loose gravel off the flowing New Zealand roads, creating a faster, 'clean' line for the later runners. Accordingly, many of the drivers elected to play tactical games in the afternoon stages, in order to gain their ideal positions in the running order tomorrow. Some backfired, however - reigning world champion Marcus Grönholm lost 40 seconds to his nearest rivals in the day's last test, yet the Finn didn't 'gain' a lower starting position tomorrow after a mathematical error by his Peugeot team.

HYUNDAI

Technical: The Accent WRC2s of Kenneth Eriksson and Alister McRae have been reliable today. The Scot's only real problem was a broken rear anti-roll bar on the day's first stage.

Sporting: Hyundai's two drivers both tried to grab their share of glory today, since their relatively low starting position meant that they were always going to benefit from roads swept clean by the early crews. Alister McRae fared best initially, and the Scot held down a top three position for much of the day before he dropped to seventh on SS6, the last stage run before tomorrow's starting order was decided. Kenneth Eriksson, meanwhile, set top-three times as he held a points-scoring position for much of today. He eventually grabbed the lead as rivals played with tactics in SS6 - it is the first time that Hyundai has led a world championship event.

Quotes: Kenneth Eriksson said: "I'm very glad for everyone in the whole team. We're making a bit of history here for Hyundai! The car has been really good today and it's given me confidence to push. Of course the cleaner roads help but we'll see what happens tomorrow. I'd like some rain - maybe a typhoon or something - because if the roads are wet then we won't lose out as much to the later crews."

Alister McRae said: "It's been a pretty good day, but not 100 percent. We had that small problem with the anti-roll bar in the first stage, which made the handling very nervous. Then we've struggled with tyre wear on some stages as well. Ideally I'd have liked to have been slightly closer to the guys in front but it's not too bad."

PEUGEOT

Technical: The 206 WRCs of Harri Rovanperä and Marcus Grönholm have been generally reliable, although Grönholm was less than satisfied with his differential's software mapping on today's opening stage. The third 206 of Didier Auriol suffered power steering failure prior to SS6.

Sporting: Marcus Grönholm grabbed the initial advantage this morning, as the world champion used swept-clean roads to move into the lead. He came under some pressure from Petter Solberg in the early afternoon tests, but then the Finn suffered badly from Peugeot confusion in the final stage prior to tomorrow's running order being decided. As a result, he dropped 40 seconds to many of his main rivals but did not move behind either of the Ford drivers in the running order. He'll start tomorrow's stages running second on the road. Didier Auriol and Harri Rovanperä both suffered from similar errors, and they dropped outside the top ten as a result.

Quotes: Marcus Gronholm said: "This is a strange race, and they were strange tactics! Seriously, there was some sort of mistake and I should have lost more time. That would have dropped me behind the Fords. It's not ideal but what can we do? It'll be better for us if it rains but even if it doesn't, we just have to push."

Harri Rovanpera said: "My biggest problem today has been that the guys in front have different driving styles, so there really isn't one good 'clean' line to follow - there are three!"

Didier Auriol said: "I knew I was going to lose time in the last stage with the power steering problem but in the end, I lost 30 seconds too much. It's all a bit silly."

Peugeot team manager Jean-Pierre Nicolas said: "The tactics did not work because everything happened too quickly. We could only hope to get our drivers just behind the Fords for tomorrow's stages but the times of Sainz and McRae came through very late. As a result, the ideal time that we showed to Marcus was wrong by one minute. It's unfortunate but it's our fault."

FORD

Technical: The three Focus RS WRC01s of Colin McRae, Carlos Sainz and François Delecour have been reliable today, although the latter pair were less than satisfied with their tyre choice for the day's first stage.

Sporting: Colin McRae felt that he had little option but to push as hard as possible today and the Scot acted accordingly, posting occasional top three times as he fought to stay near the head of the field. He eventually ended the day's sixth stage in fourth overall, more than half a minute behind Kenneth Eriksson. McRae and Carlos Sainz were unable to play the same tactical games as the Subaru or Peugeot crews, given that they were running ahead of them on the road today anyway. Sainz improved his pace during the middle loop of stages after raising his car and choosing softer tyres. He will start tomorrow's stages running third on the road. François Delecour, meanwhile, has held a top ten position all day and despite concerns over tyre choice, the Frenchman arrived at this evening's superspecials in Manukau in eighth.

Quotes: Colin McRae said: "It's hardly ideal. It would have been better to have been seventh or eighth tomorrow rather than fourth, but we really had no option but to charge, so we did. The same problem about roads cleaning up is going to stay with us all the way through this rally, unless it rains."

Carlos Sainz said: "I've been quite happy with the car settings but in the end, there was nothing I could do to affect the road position and we've ended up looking a bit stupid."

SUBARU

Technical: Richard Burns suffered a slow puncture on this morning's first stage but his Impreza WRC2001 has been reliable otherwise. Petter Solberg's car overheated before the start of SS5 and SS6 after its fans stopped working. The car's electronic systems put the engine into 'safe mode', meaning that the young Norwegian had to complete the two tests without anti-lag. Toshihiro Arai's car has been reliable, although the Japanese driver knocked the wheel alignment out of joint when he slid off on the day's first stage.

Sporting: Petter Solberg has been Marcus Grönholm's nearest challenger on the timesheets for much of today's action. The young Norwegian, who was running ninth on the road, set a pair of fastest times in SS2 and SS3 to keep the world champion in sight. But even though engine problems slowed Solberg in SS5 and SS6, he still felt he'd gone too quickly - his time meant he'll start tomorrow's second leg running fifth on the road. Richard Burns has adopted a steady attitude today, and the Englishman was satisfied to hold ninth after SS6, less than a minute behind leader Kenneth Eriksson. Toshihiro Arai's cause wasn't helped when he slid into a ditch and up a bank on the first stage, but the Japanese driver has posted respectable times thereafter to keep a top ten position in sight.

Quotes: Petter Solberg said: "Today's been like a kind of test session for many of the stages. In the last stage I knew I was losing time because of the engine, so I really tried hard and my time was actually a bit too good - I'd have preferred to have been a place or two lower. But we will keep trying."

Richard Burns said: "It's been a pretty good day for us. There's no point taking risks but we've ended up in the lower regions of the top ten, without actually being too far off the lead. We just need it to stay dry tomorrow - if it rains, the roads won't clean up as much and it'll be harder to make up time."

MITSUBISHI

Technical: Tommi Mäkinen's Lancer Evolution has been reliable today. His team-mates weren't so lucky, though - Freddy Loix complained of poor handling as he tried to tweak his car's suspension to improve grip, and Toni Gardemeister was lucky to stay in the event at all after gearbox problems. The young Finn hit a rock, breaking the gearbox casing and losing all of its oil. He and navigator Paavo Lukander had to push their car to second service.

Sporting: Tommi Mäkinen always knew that running first on the road today would be a struggle, but the four-times world champion could only watch as he ceded chunks of time to his rivals. He fought gamely during the afternoon but couldn't get his Lancer near the top ten - he'll start tomorrow's tests running 14th. Freddy Loix was dissatisfied with his car's handling for much of today but the Belgian still held a top six position as he started this evening's superspecials in Manukau. Toni Gardemeister's mechanical problems left him outside of the top 20, however.

Quotes: Tommi Mäkinen said: "I've found it very difficult today. With no lines from previous cars in the road it's very hard to judge the corners and I've lost a lot of time under braking. I don't know about tomorrow - we'll just try to do our best and see what happens, but it doesn't seem very fair to me."

Toni Gardemeister said: "We hit a rock and then we started to lose gears. We got quite close to service but then we lost all of the gears so Paavo and I had to push the car for nearly a kilometre. I'm very disappointed because I want to gain good experience of the Lancer and maybe do some good times."

Other teams Local Subaru driver Possum Bourne overcame brake problems this morning to hold a top ten placing in his Impreza WRC. The other privateer World Rally Car driver, Neil Wearden, had inched into the top ten before fuel pressure problems forced him to retire in SS4.

In the Group N category for more standard cars, Cody Crocker holds a 21-second cushion over class world champion Manfred Stohl. Argentine driver Gabriel Pozzo lost time with a puncture but he still holds third.

-fia.com- -www.worldrallychampionship.com-

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Tommi Makinen , Colin McRae , Carlos Sainz , Freddy Loix , Toshihiro Arai , Richard Burns , Harri Rovanpera , Didier Auriol , Marcus Gronholm , Petter Solberg , François Delecour , Alister McRae , Kenneth Eriksson , Jean-Pierre Nicolas , Manfred Stohl , Toni Gardemeister , Paavo Lukander , Gabriel Pozzo , Cody Crocker