Overnight leader Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) cruised through the final day to claim his second victory of the season and climb to second in the championship. He signed off with fastest time on the final stage and his winning margin was 49.8sec. ...
Overnight leader Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) cruised through the final day to claim his second victory of the season and climb to second in the championship. He signed off with fastest time on the final stage and his winning margin was 49.8sec. There was no battle for second as Petter Solberg (Subaru) refused to risk a solid points haul in pursuit of Marcus Grönholm (Peugeot). The Finn ended 18.9sec ahead and Solberg maintained his one point lead at the head of the championship. Fourth earned François Duval (Citroen) his first points of the season while fifth for Markko Märtin (Peugeot) means he joins Gardemeister (6th) as the only drivers to score on every round this season. Eighth for Gigi Galli (Mitsubishi) earned his team the final manufacturers' point. Janne Tuohino (Skoda) became the first manufacturer retirement when the Finn stopped after the opening stage with a blown turbo. He was followed by Harri Rovanperä (Mitsubishi) who stopped on the liaison section after the final stage with no tread left on his tyres.
A perfectly paced run during Leg 3 ensured victory for Sébastien Loeb, Daniel Elena and Citroën at the finish ceremony of the 2005 Rally New Zealand in Waitemata Plaza in Auckland's harbour district. The Franco-Monegasque pair's second win of the season takes them to 2nd place in the provisional Drivers' Championship standings. An equally well judged final day performance from François Duval and Stéphane Prévot secured 4th place at the flag for the Belgian pair who secured their first points of the year, while Citroën moves into 2nd place in the Manufacturer's championship to conclude in style a highly successful trip for Guy Fréquelin and his team to the other side of the planet.
Sébastien Loeb / Daniel Elena: "It's very nice to win here in New Zealand after our frustrating outings in Sweden and Mexico. It shows that we were simply down on luck on those two rallies. I am particularly pleased with this weekend's result because we won in a straight fight with Marcus [Grönholm] and Petter [Solberg]. Also, winning on this terrain - which tended to be a little difficult for us in previous years - is a positive sign on two accounts. First of all, it proves that the Xsara continues to progress and, secondly, the fact that we are now competitive on fast gravel means we can hope for a top result in Finland."
Francois Duval / Stephane Prevot: "My target was always to finish inside the top five. I needed to score my first points with the team and I couldn't have taken more risks than I took. It was only my second outing on gravel with the Xsara and I succeeded in being consistent. I am really very happy with this result."
After scoring a third consecutive WRC podium finish today, Petter Solberg maintains his lead of the 2005 FIA Drivers' Championship. Delivering a measured and strategic drive aboard his Subaru Impreza WRC2005, the Norwegian kept out of trouble to ensure a solid points finish. His team-mate Chris Atkinson demonstrated strong potential over the weekend. Setting a string of competitive split times on only his third event in a WRC-class car, the 25-year- old more than achieved his development objectives. He finished in seventh place to claim FIA Championship points for both himself and the team.
Petter Solberg / Phil Mills: "I'm very happy actually. My plan for this rally was third or fourth place and we've come away with some good points and the lead of the championship. We knew it would be difficult right from the start. In fact we did okay but later on, on the hard and dry roads, we were far away. But that's how it is sometimes, I didn't want to lose those six points, so took it steady and went for the best possible finish. I'm feeling very positive about the championship now. For sure we have some work to do, but overall the feeling is good. I'm very happy with the new car and with 12 more rallies to go, things are looking very interesting."
Chris Atkinson/Glen Macneall: "It's good to get to the finish, but it would have been nice to get a better result. It's a bit of a shame that we lost some of the pace we had earlier in the rally. The plan was to build up the speed, but in fact we've ended up doing pretty much the opposite. We've certainly learned a lot about the set-up of the car though. Some things worked well, others not so well. The last two stages actually felt pretty good, I was much more comfortable with the handling, but at that point there was no reason to push too hard. Overall I'm pretty happy. We did some good times this weekend, and that's encouraging, the pace is there, but I need more time in the car to go fast all the time."
BP-Ford World Rally Team drivers Toni Gardemeister and Jakke Honkanen finished sixth on the Rally New Zealand today to extend the Blue Oval's scoring record in the FIA World Rally Championship to an unprecedented 48 consecutive events. The Finns are one of only two pairings to score points on all four rounds this year in their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car and lie fourth in the drivers' standings with the first quarter of the season completed. Gardemeister and Honkanen were edged out of fifth place on the final speed test of the three-day rally when Markko Märtin, with whom they had battled over tenths of a second since Friday's opening kilometres, moved ahead.
Toni Gardemeister/Jakke Honkanen: "The morning started well. I was quicker than Märtin on the first stage. On the next I was nervous about the condition of the tyres so I drove carefully at the beginning. The final 10km were twisty and narrow so I tried to keep the Focus on the clean line in the road which had been created by the cars ahead. It was still pretty slippery so I drove as smoothly as possible. I chose harder compound tyres for the final stages but because there were no new tyres left in our allocation, I had to use ones with an older construction. The grip wasn't quite as good as the new version. I tried my hardest, but I couldn't keep Markko behind me. A points result is always good but I'm disappointed not to finish fifth. I would have been much happier if I could have finished in front of him."
Roman Kresta/Jan Mozny: Withdrew after shakedown accident
Peugeot has underlined its excellent start to the season in New Zealand by once more bringing two cars home to the finish. Marcus Gronholm takes his second consecutive runner-up position, while Markko Martin finishes fifth after an exciting battle with Ford driver Toni Gardemeister. Peugeot has therefore reinforced its position leading the constructors' championship, 12 points ahead of Citroen and 15 points ahead of Subaru.
Marcus Gronhölm / Timo Rautiainen: "Before the rally started I thought I could win, but this turned out not to be possible: the combination of Sebastien and Citroen was too fast to catch. In any case, I am reasonably happy to finish second. I had a big fight with Petter, but I was quite confident I could keep him behind me. I am happy with the reliability of the car; we have had two good finishes in a row and that gives me a lot of confidence. I am a little bit disappointed not to take the win, but generally speaking I am satisfied with our performance."
Markko Martin/Michael Park: "I have made a big step in understanding how to drive the 307 WRC on this rally, but I think I discovered it a bit late. I tried changing my driving style during the last afternoon of the rally and it seemed to work well: I was able to pass Toni Gardemeister and take fifth. I need to left foot brake a bit more, but this is quite a different driving style to what I am used to. The final result could have been better, but it's more important that I understand the 307 WRC and our new Pirelli tyres as best as I can, so this rally has been an extremely useful experience."
The Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports WRC crew of "Gigi" Galli and Guido D'Amore finished in the points in their second outing in Rally New Zealand, the fourth round of the FIA World Rally Championship.
The Italian Lancer WRC05 duo finished eighth and claimed a driver and manufacturer points finish for the second time this season - Mitsubishi's fourth consecutive points-scoring finish in 2005. Team-mates Harri Rovanperä and Risto Pietiläinen completed the final stage but were then withdrawn by the team on the road section back to Auckland with tyre problems.
Harri Rovanpera/Risto Pietiläinen: Retired on final road section (Tyre problems)
Gigi Galli/Guido D'Amore: "Our goal was to get to the finish and be in the points, so I think we did our job well. We had some technical problems in the first leg and then today we drove these stages for the first time; they are very twisty and complicated but we didn't have any problems. Personally I have to feel very satisfied with our own performance."
Armin Schwarz ended the Rally of New Zealand in 10th place but team mate Janne Tuohino was denied a finish on his first visit to the event when the Skoda Fabia WRC 05 suffered a damaged turbo on the first stage of the final day. Janne limped through the stage but retired from the event before SS18 to prevent further engine damage. Janne's retirement ended a frustrating rally for the Finn who had begun with a 50 seconds penalty when an ECU failure delayed his departure from first service to the opening stage and denied him the chance of a points finish on his first finish to New Zealand.
Janne Tuohino/Mikko Markkula: "We lost power on the start line of the first stage and there was smoke in the car so we knew it was a turbo problem. I drove carefully to reach the finish with the windows open so we could breathe. I think that I could have had a good result if it had been trouble-free but losing 50 seconds at the start made it very difficult to challenge yesterday because road position is so important."
Armin Schwarz/Klaus Wicha: "This morning I deliberately made the wrong choice of softer compound tyres because I wanted to compare their performance with the ones Janne was using. After Janne stopped I decided not to push as there were big time gaps ahead and behind me."
With the first quarter of the season now complete the WRC returns to Europe for four gravel rounds. They start with the Rally d'Italia-Sardinia on April 28-May 1 (followed by Cyprus, Turkey and Greece)