MARCUS GRONHOLM SECOND AFTER LEG ONE After a ceremonial start in Auckland city centre on Thursday night, the rally moved to the north of New Zealand to base itself around the small village of Paparoa, home to the service park over the first ...
MARCUS GRONHOLM SECOND AFTER LEG ONE
After a ceremonial start in Auckland city centre on Thursday night, the rally moved to the north of New Zealand to base itself around the small village of Paparoa, home to the service park over the first two days. The green countryside and flowing roads of the area are typical of Rally New Zealand: a firm favourite amongst all the drivers.
But rather than admiring the scenery, the crews were plunged straight into action for the first leg of the rally on Friday morning, on rollercoaster gravel roads where the average speed through corners and crests was in the region of 120kph.
Three drivers broke away from the pack at the first opportunity: the same trio that have set the pace all year. Sebastien Loeb, Marcus Gronholm and Petter Solberg traded seconds all day. After the first loop of four stages, totalling 72 competitive kilometres, they were covered by just eight tenths of a second.
On the second loop of four stages, which included a repeat of three tests used in the morning, Loeb managed to pull out a gap of 23.1 seconds over the Peugeot 307 WRC of Marcus Gronholm. Loeb's team mate Francois Duval did well to take third, 26.7 seconds further back while Petter Solberg is fourth, 31.7 seconds off the lead.
Marcus Gronholm: "I was reasonably pleased after the first loop of stages, knowing that I had made a tyre choice that was a bit too hard. Unfortunately, we had the opposite problem in the afternoon, and chose tyres that were too soft. We struggled to find traction, so it was a frustrating afternoon. Generally speaking, it was quite a messy day where we made life difficult for ourselves. However, we end the leg just 20 seconds off the lead and we have had no problems with the car. I've always had a good feeling with the roads here, so we can still challenge for the lead. I'm looking forward to the rest of the event.
Markko Martin: "Since the last rally in Mexico and our recent tests I've had a better feeling with the car. This morning started off OK, but like Marcus I chose tyres that were too soft for the afternoon's stages and I struggled a bit. This is the sort of rally where you have to make everything absolutely perfect in order to get a good rhythm and I am not at that point yet. There are a few adjustments I would like to make to the car and hopefully that will help us climb up the order over the remaining two days."
Jean-Pierre Nicolas: "We've had no problem with the cars, but our lack of experience with our new Pirelli tyres led us to pick tyres that were too hard for the first loop of stages. As is so often the case we over-compensated for the mistake, and took tyres that were too soft in the afternoon's second loop of stages. Luckily Marcus managed to limit the time loss: we are still in the thick of the action and 23 seconds is not an insurmountable gap."