GRONHOLM CONSOLIDATES HIS SECOND PLACE The three drivers who have been setting the pace all season once more occupy the provisional podium after leg two of the all-gravel Rally New Zealand. Sebastien Loeb, who took the lead yesterday with ...
GRONHOLM CONSOLIDATES HIS SECOND PLACE
The three drivers who have been setting the pace all season once more occupy the provisional podium after leg two of the all-gravel Rally New Zealand. Sebastien Loeb, who took the lead yesterday with his Citroen Xsara WRC, heads the Peugeot 307 WRC of Marcus Gronholm by more than 50 seconds while Subaru driver Petter Solberg is over a minute behind. The fight between Gronholm and Solberg has been monumental, with both drivers swapping seconds over the fast and flowing stages from the very start.
Some overnight rain made tyre choice difficult for the second leg, which consisted of two loops of three stages (two of which were repeated in the afternoon). The first stage was still very damp, but conditions then remained entirely dry throughout the leg. Both drivers made differing tyre choices but they were happy with their selections. After a tough fight, Gronholm lost his second place to Solberg.
Despite some gathering clouds, no rain materialised in the afternoon and the drivers set off for the second loop of stages in completely dry weather. Gronholm was determined to mount a charge, and wrestled his runner-up spot back from Solberg. However, he still has some way to go to catch up with Loeb out in front--
Marcus Gronholm: "It's clear that we are not going to win this rally, and while I never like finishing second that is the best we can do here now. Today has been OK but the problem is simply that Sebastien is quicker than us and there is nothing more we can do about it. For the last loop of stages I tried some new tyres that were the best choice we have made throughout the whole rally. Now it is a question of just driving to the finish and trying to keep Petter behind. That will not be easy -- he has been very quick and I have a big fight on my hands. Still, I like that!"
Markko Martin: "Today has not been a perfect day, but we have not had any problems with the car and we have learnt a lot. I'm still not entirely confident with the handling, but it is still very early days for me. I've already thought of a couple of things I would like to change for the future. I've also been getting to grips with the range of Pirelli tyres today -- we've tried a lot of different things. Conditions on this rally have been quite difficult; it's certainly not the easiest event to be learning new things on. Tomorrow I will just keep on going at a pace I feel comfortable with: there's no point in taking big risks just for a fifth place."
Jean-Pierre Nicolas: "On this rally, tyres make the difference. We managed to find the tyres from Pirelli's range which were best suited to these types of conditions, and these allowed Marcus to pull out a slight advantage over Solberg. But Sebastien Loeb and his tyre choices seem untouchable. Marcus has done a remarkable job today, but as things stand he will not be able to win this rally with the equipment he has available."