WRC

Rally New Zealand Production: Al-Wahaibi summary

3rd place for Hamed Al-Wahaibi in New-Zealand. Hamed Al-Wahaibi scored third place on the second round of the FIA Production Car World Championship category in the Propecia Rally New Zealand, which finished near Auckland Sunday 13th April. At...

3rd place for Hamed Al-Wahaibi in New-Zealand.

Hamed Al-Wahaibi scored third place on the second round of the FIA Production Car World Championship category in the Propecia Rally New Zealand, which finished near Auckland Sunday 13th April. At the wheel of his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VII, run by the Austrian preparation company operated by Manfred Stohl, this was Hamed's first major rally entry for a year and the first out of six events in his PCWRC programme in 2003.

Hamed Al Wahaibi discovered the potential of his new Mitsubishi Lancer Evo7, built by Stohl Racing during day one of the New Zealand Rally, the first round for Al Wahaibi in the 2003 Production Car World Rally Championship this season. Having been out of competition for a long time, Hamed seems content with the forth place in the PCWRC. "We had a fair day." he said. "the car has a lot more potential.. we had some problems but I am content with today's driving.. things could be better. I will not push hard but will try to keep pace with other competitors." he added.

Assisted by British co-driver Nicky Beech, Hamed and his new Mitsubishi Lancer Evo7 were the first to challenge the day-leading Japanese Toshihiro Arai and his factory-supported Subaru Impreza, when Al Wahaibi showed some of his 1999 natural driving skills to snatch leg two.

Hamed Al-Wahaibi finished the second full day of the Propecia Rally New Zealand in third place, behind the Subaru of Toshi Arai and the Mitsubishi of Marcos Ligato. It was a dramatic day in the Northland region of New Zealand for many competitors, but for Hamed it was satisfying.

After overnight worries, the engine of the Lancer Evo VII kept its performance through the long 59km opening stage, even if the driver felt he had not given his best. "I have not contested a major rally for a year, and it was difficult to drive so long flat out so early in the day! Fortunately I had really woken up by then, and made fastest time in the PCWRC category on the next stage." His time on the second stage, and a puncture and then brake trouble for his rival Ramon Ferreyros enabled Hamed to rise from fourth to third place.

Hamed was soon on the pace in New Zealand. On the second stage of the event Hamed scored best time of all 20 cars entered in the PCWRC category, but while Hamed soon adjusted, it was taking a little more time for the car to become adjusted to the conditions. "On the first day I sensed the engine began to lose power on the longer stages, but it went very well on the shorter ones." Hamed quickly became involved in a close fight with several other leading PCWRC competitors, including the reigning World Junior Champion, Daniel Sola, the World Production Car Champion, Karamjit Singh, and the European vice champion, Janusz Kulig.

Gradually Hamed was able to pull ahead of his closest rivals, when Sola went off the road and Kulig stopped with fuel pump failure. On the second day the engine was working perfectly, though on the third and final day of competition, Hamed had brake trouble and made a spin. The lost time dropped him temporarily from third to fourth behind British driver Martin Rowe, but then he fought back again to finish third behind the Japanese driver Toshihiro Arai (in a brand new version Subaru Impreza) and the Argentine Marcos Ligato, in another Mitsubishi.

"Although we had already contested a rally last month in Austria, I soon noticed the effect of the lay-off, but gradually the old feeling soon came back." The main purpose of the Austrian adventure had been to learn to work with his new codriver, Nicky Beech, the reigning British champion codriver.

The next rally in the series is the Argentina Rally in four weeks's time 7-11 May, based in the rolling hills west of Cordoba.

-duby miller

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Ramon Ferreyros , Toshihiro Arai , Daniel Sola , Manfred Stohl , Karamjit Singh