Rally New Zealand: Ford M-Sport summary

Tomasz Kuchar Final Placing: DNF Driver: Tomasz Kuchar (PL) Co driver: Maciej Szczepaniak (PL) Vehicle: Y129 XEV (Ford Focus WRC02) Tyres: Michelin Leg One: Following his 11th overall placing in the 2002 Rally New Zealand, Tomasz Kuchar was ...

Tomasz Kuchar
Final Placing: DNF
Driver: Tomasz Kuchar (PL)
Co driver: Maciej Szczepaniak (PL)
Vehicle: Y129 XEV (Ford Focus WRC02)
Tyres: Michelin

Leg One: Following his 11th overall placing in the 2002 Rally New Zealand, Tomasz Kuchar was looking forward to competing in the fast gravel rally for the second time in his Ford Focus RS WRC02 and used his previous experience and the pre-event recce to fine tune both his car set up and pace notes. Cautiously optimistic about his chances, the Pole's enthusiasm for his new World Rally Car grew during the first day as he set faster times than he had on his first New Zealand outing.

"It was amazing. We were taking 20 seconds off some of our stage times from last year and the car is performing better than we had expected it to. I am very happy with how we are doing today," said Kuchar.

The duo enjoyed a virtually trouble free day and completed Leg One in 17th place overall

Leg Two: Leg Two saw Kuchar gain confidence of both the fast roads and his Ford Focus RS, continuing to set comparable times during the first three stages, including SS10 Parahi/Ararua, the longest stage of the entire World Rally Championship. The afternoon's schedule saw the stage split into two, however Kuchar's second run through the shorter SS14 Ararua proved to be his undoing.

"We were going hard around a long right hand bend about 2km from the end and unluckily slid off the road. Unfortunately the car went quite a distance into the bush and we were unable to get it back on the road within the time limit and retired. However we were lucky the accident wasn't worse than it was and with help from spectators we were able to get the car back on the road and drove back to the service park," he said.

"While we are of course very disappointed not to finish, we are delighted with our performance over the first two legs and happy with how the car has performed as it has been excellent -- a real credit to my team who have worked incredibly hard to prepare us for this event and I am only sorry for them that we were unable to continue. But for now, it's onwards and upwards and we are looking forward to our next outing at the Acropolis Rally," he said.

AW Rally Team
Driver: Antony Warmbold (D)
Co driver: Gemma Price (GB)
Vehicle: Y3 FMC (Ford Focus WRC02)
Tyres: Michelin

Leg One: Realistic about competing for their first time 'down under', and having not competed in a gravel rally since the beginning of 2001, Antony Warmbold and Gemma Price took a level-headed approach to their first Rally New Zealand. Having not competed since the Swedish Rally in February, the duo took some time to reacquaint themselves with their Ford Focus and posted steady times during the day. A loss of hydraulics during the second set of stages left them with only two gears, and a longer than anticipated gearbox change at the following service resulted in them leaving 3 minutes late.

"We are here to learn and we have certainly done that today!" said Warmbold. "We knew it wouldn't be easy getting back into the car after a two month break, but we are determined to complete this event which will give us valuable experience for the future. We didn't expect to be amongst the top ten, but we are a little disappointed with being so far down the order today when we know that without the technical problems we have had, with the way the car is set up we were hoping to at least be amongst the top 20."

Unfortunately his bad luck continued, and after losing all hydraulics he was forced to complete the final four stages with manual gearing, finishing Leg One in 29th place overall

Leg Two: Leg two proved to be a frustrating day for the young German, running 29th on the road to reflect his finishing position on day one. Unfortunately, this placed Warmbold amongst the slower Group N cars, running at one-minute intervals rather than the 2 minutes for his fellow Priority One drivers. For safety reasons the team requested to run earlier on the road, however this was declined, and Warmbold was forced to run at one minute intervals.

"As we have a much more powerful package, we very quickly caught the car in front and had to slow down many times during the stage because of poor visibility as the dust hung in the air, particular driving through heavily forested areas," he said.

"For sure it was frustrating, but we could do nothing about it and while it is not the most ideal conditions for us to be competing in, we tried our best to set some good times - but when you are stopping and starting to compensate for such conditions it is very hard to keep both your concentration and motivation," he said.

Warmbold improved dramatically to finish the day in 18th overall.

Leg Three: Reseeded to a 25th place road position for the Third Leg provided further frustration for the young German who found himself again running behind much slower cars. A request for reseeding was declined by the event stewards so Warmbold resigned himself to a second day of catching his competitors.

"During the first stage of the day we lost engine power and dropped down to three cylinders, however we were able to replace the coil pack after the stage and thankfully made it to the following stage within the allocated time and went on to post 10th fastest time," he said.

"However with the car running at full power again we were again at a disadvantage, and for the remaining stages of the day we felt as if we were doing everything in 4km bites -- we'd have a fairly clear run before catching the car in front and then had to stop to allow them to get a decent distance ahead and the dust to clear before I could put my foot down, only to catch them up again about 4kms later!"

Although frustrated by the challenges set before them, both Antony Warmbold and Gemma Price were happy to complete their first Rally New Zealand in 20th place overall.

Rally of Argentina - 9-11 May
Antony Warmbold and Gemma Price will continue their FIA World Rally Championship programme at the Rally of Argentina in four week's time.


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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Tomasz Kuchar , Gemma Price , Antony Warmbold
Teams M-Sport