Sordo leads after Loeb runs into trouble The result was just as Sebastien Loeb had predicted: he wasn't leading. The good news for the Citroen team is that his team-mate Dani Sordo is out front after the first four stages of Rally New ...
Sordo leads after Loeb runs into trouble
The result was just as Sebastien Loeb had predicted: he wasn't leading. The good news for the Citroen team is that his team-mate Dani Sordo is out front after the first four stages of Rally New Zealand.
The news of the Spaniard's early success did little to cheer the championship leader's mood. He'd had a bad morning, bouncing his C4 off a bridge in the fourth stage and dropping to eighth place.
Loeb knew he was in for a tough time on the opening morning, with no rain on the stages north of Auckland, they were covered in loose gravel, forcing the Frenchman to sweep them clean.
While Loeb struggled at the front, Petter Solberg made the perfect start with fastest time on SS1 - despite running second on the road just behind Loeb. Rally New Zealand rookie Sebastien Ogier won the next stage, with Sordo making his move in Bull, the day's third test. Sordo was seven seconds faster than anybody to move into the lead. Fastest time in stage four cemented his 5.5 second advantage from Ogier at the remote service in Whangarei.
"The morning has been good," said Sordo, "but the rally will not be decided here. We have to think about the rest of the event. I'm happy for now, though - but the difference is not so big between the cars. Maybe the road is not cleaning quite so much."
There was a big difference between his Citroen and the number one version of Loeb - almost two minutes to be precise. "I lost the back of the car on the entry to a tight corner over a bridge," said Loeb. "The back of the car slid and hit the bridge. I thought it was okay, so we drove on, but it wasn't and I was about to lose the door. I knew it was just a remote service after, so I had to keep the door. I stopped for one minute to try and close the door. I couldn't so I held it closed. The dust was very bad."
Two seconds behind the delighted Ogier in third was first Ford Jari-Matti Latvala. The Finn's Focus was three up on Petter Solberg, with Mikko Hirvonen fifth, 17.7 seconds down on Sordo.
Jari Ketomaa tops the Super 2000 World Rally Championship division in his Ford Fiesta, despite reporting a possible engine problem. "It seems okay in the stages but on the road section there is a slight delay and we have a problem starting the engine," he said.
Martin Prokop is second in a similar Fiesta, with Xevi Pons, the championship leader, completing a Fiesta clean sweep of the podium places. Patrik Sandell is the leading Skoda Fabia running in fifth, despite smashing part of his windscreen striking a giant bird on stage two.
Wrc.com blogger Hayden Paddon heads a New Zealand lockout of the Production Car World Rally Championship top three from wildcard entrants Richard Mason and Emma Gilmour. Double PWRC champion Toshi Arai's hopes of victory in the class suffered a blow when he broke a right-rear cross member hitting a bridge on stage three.