Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution driver "Dani" SolÃ has been the star of the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship today and the Spaniard not only now leads the registered contenders, but set six fastest times in the eight stages run in the...
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution driver "Dani" Solà has been the star of the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship today and the Spaniard not only now leads the registered contenders, but set six fastest times in the eight stages run in the second leg of Rally New Zealand. The Lancer driver holds a 10.1 second advantage over Marcos Ligato, with former leader Manfred Stohl, driving a Lancer Evolution with the OMV World Rally Team, third.
The second leg of Rally New Zealand took 16 of the original 20 FIA Production Car World Rally Championship contenders back north to the service park at Paparoa for two loops of four stages in the Kaipara region. Warm and dry weather greeted the crews but again, more than 15 hours behind the wheel of recce and rally cars will have taken their toll on the entire field of 47 starters.
Dani Solà started the day on a charge and by the time the Ralliart Italy driver arrived at the lunchtime service he had won all four of the morning’s stages in his Lancer Evolution to climb from an overnight third to second position.
Victory in the fifth stage of the day elevated Solà into the top slot, 3.9 seconds ahead of Ligato, and a further one fastest stage time sees him overnight back in Auckland 10.1 seconds ahead, and in 10th position overall, with six stages remaining on Sunday.
"I’ve felt very confident with the car but the conditions have been very very fast and slippery", said Dani. "I am very happy and it is good to be leading with so much opposition, but we have been a bit lucky because we had a little problem with the rear differential this afternoon (SS14). The door is open to win, but there is still a way to go".
Argentina’s Marcos Ligato holds second position while former leader Manfred Stohl has slipped to third, the Lancer Evolution driver overhauled by Solà after stage 14. Toshihiro Arai remains fourth of the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship contenders and has a healthy lead over Stohl’s team-mate Jani Paasonen. Alister McRae, production car winner in the final stage, rounds off the top six and Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution drivers continue to claim three of the leading six positions.
Xavier Pons holds eighth of the production car contenders, in a point-scoring position behind Karamjit Singh. "It’s my first time in New Zealand so there is a lot to learn with the roads", said Pons. "It has been very nice, apart from the low sun at the end of the day; it was difficult to see".
Mirco Baldacci, from San Marino, is third of the non-registered contenders in his Group N Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. "I am pleased and a bit surprised", he said. "I have never done this rally before, but the car has been fantastic and we just try to keep going the same way like we did yesterday".
The final leg of Rally New Zealand starts from Auckland on Sunday morning and takes the crews 157 kilometers to the south of the city. The route takes in two loops of three stages, including one of the most famous and scenic of the event, Whaanga Coast. The crews return to the harbor in Auckland for the finish at 17:00 hrs (GMT+12).