Peugeot's reigning World Champion Marcus Gronholm has maintained his winning advantage throughout the second day of the Rally New Zealand. Marcus leads his team mate Richard Burns by over a minute heading into the final day, and both drivers are...
Peugeot's reigning World Champion Marcus Gronholm has maintained his winning advantage throughout the second day of the Rally New Zealand. Marcus leads his team mate Richard Burns by over a minute heading into the final day, and both drivers are looking to make it a Peugeot one-two tomorrow.
Marcus had a scare on stage 13 when his car flipped onto its side and he lost 30 seconds. But his advantage was big enough for this incident not to threaten his lead. Burns moved up to second following the retirement of Ford's Markko Martin on stage 14, but Peugeot driver Harri Rovanpera was also forced out on the same stage after an accident.
"I am very happy," said Marcus. "Luckily we did not damage the car too badly when we went off on stage 13. I was just a little bit too quick into a corner and the car went onto its side. Eventually some spectators pushed it back onto its wheels and we were able to continue. Mechanically everything is fine so I feel very confident about tomorrow. We have a minute's lead so there is no need to take any risks."
Marcus has led the event from the opening stage, and set 2 fastest times today to underline his dominance of the fast, flowing New Zealand roads. Weather conditions have again been entirely unpredictable, but there has been less of the torrential rain that characterised some of yesterday's stages.
Former World Champion Richard Burns stormed to a podium position today after passing Subaru's Petter Solberg on stage 10 for third – at 59 kilometres the longest of the rally. Richard ended a fault-free day second, after the Ford of Markko Martin retired in front of him.Richard had no problems today, apart from a soft brake pedal on some of the longer stages.
"Today has been good," concluded Richard. "These stages are fantastic but they are also incredibly difficult to drive. On the long stages you want to go as fast as possible, but also you have to think about conserving your tyres. The conditions have been mostly dry today and we've had good grip."
Harri Rovanpera was up to a fighting fourth after passing the Subaru of Petter Solberg on stage 12. But his excellent work was destined to end in retirement, after he went off the road on stage 14 and was unable to continue.
"I'm bitterly disappointed," said Harri. "I was pushing and it was my mistake. I feel very sorry for the whole team."
Peugeot Sport Team Principal Corrado Provera said: "It's a real pity for Harri. He made a superhuman effort today and he deserved to score his first points of the year. But mistakes on this rally are often costly. Looking on the positive side, Marcus and Richard are doing a fantastic job. We wish them well for tomorrow."
The final day of the Rally New Zealand is also the shortest. Crews will contest six stages in total, including four consecutive stages at the very end of the rally. The winner is expected on the finish ramp at 1530.