Skoda Motorsport ends first day in points position. Surprise rain makes tyre choice difficult. Solid drives from Didier Auriol and Toni Gardemeister. The Å koda Motorsport World Rally Team has successfully completed the opening day of Rally New...
Skoda Motorsport ends first day in points position.
Surprise rain makes tyre choice difficult.
Solid drives from Didier Auriol and Toni Gardemeister.
The Škoda Motorsport World Rally Team has successfully completed the opening day of Rally New Zealand with Didier Auriol in tenth position and Toni Gardemeister 13th. Didier's position currently means that Škoda Motorsport is provisionally in the World Rally Championship points for the fourth consecutive event.
It was an excellent performance considering that his preparation was disrupted yesterday. "Because I wasn't able to test the car as much as I would have liked it meant that I had to start today's stages with a slightly experimental set up," he said.
Didier's only major problem during today's opening leg was the changeable weather that caused major difficulties with tyre choice for SS4 and SS5. The information available in service before these two mid-day tests suggested that the weather would remain wet. However, when the Škoda Motorsport crews arrived at the start of SS4 it was clear that the roads were a lot drier than anticipated. "I had to drive very conservatively on the first stage as I had chosen tyres that were not the ideal solution for the conditions we encountered," said Didier. "Fortunately the wet weather returned for SS5 and things were better for us on that stage. I tried very, very hard this afternoon and took many risks but I am quite happy with the result. The Octavia WRC has performed with no problems at all and everything is under control."
Toni was unable to show his true potential over today's opening stages as the heavy rain led to a problem with his windscreen wipers. "Because I couldn't see clearly I couldn't push as hard as I wanted," he said. "Combined with the slippery conditions it meant that the first group of stages had to be driven cautiously and some way from the performance that I know we can achieve."
Toni also encountered similar problems to Didier with the SS4/5 weather. He was unable to preserve his tyres quite so well for the second stage when it started to rain before he entered the control area and he did well to reach the finish without any extra problems under the circumstances. "I lost some motivation this afternoon and started to drive untidily," he said. "I will now have to start the second leg from the front and so, although the rain has caused problems today, I'm actually hoping it stays wet tomorrow!"
Škoda Motorsport team principal, Pavel Janeba was in confident mood at the end of today's nine stages. "I'm not at all concerned about our current position," he said. "Toni needs to go and get a good night's sleep, put his problems behind him and he'll definitely be able to drive quickly tomorrow. I'm happy that Didier has had a good opening day after some difficult times in the past few events. There is a long way to go, of course, but I'm optimistic."
Tomorrow's second leg of the rally sees the crews again contesting stages in the Paparoa region north of Auckland but slightly to the west of those used today. Five stages will be contested in the area before crews return to Auckland where they will face two runs over the superspecial at Manukau. Tomorrow's stages comprise a total of 150.43km.