WRC

Rally New Zealand: Skoda preview

For the fourth round of the World Rally Championship, the teams and their equipment travel to the city of Auckland on the northern island of New Zealand. For the Å koda Motorsport Team, which has its base in the Czech city of Mlada Boleslav, the...

For the fourth round of the World Rally Championship, the teams and their equipment travel to the city of Auckland on the northern island of New Zealand. For the Škoda Motorsport Team, which has its base in the Czech city of Mlada Boleslav, the trip to ‚down under‘ takes no less than 24 hours by plane.

Because of the long distance, the team had to take special logisitic precautions. Most equipment left the Škoda Auto factory already at the end of February. The Škoda Octavia WRC rally cars were flown in to Auckland at the end of March. Part of the team is already in place, to make the necessary preparations and to explore the route of the rally, which will be run on April 10 – 13.

Škoda Motorsport Team will contest the Rally New Zealand next weekend for only the second time in its long history. The rollercoaster roads of New Zealand hold some unique challenges, but Škoda Motorsport is determined to continue its record of scoring points on every rally of the 2003 season to date.

Didier Auriol, who has led the Rally New Zealand in the past but never won it, said: "I like this rally a lot. It is a very fast event and one where you really have to maintain speed. I think it should be quite well suited to the Škoda Octavia WRC."

Škoda Motorsport's young Finn Toni Gardemeister has very fond memories of Rally New Zealand, as it was where he made his World Championship breakthrough. On his first event in a World Rally Car in 1999 Toni finished third, underlining his remarkable natural talent.

"New Zealand is really good fun," said Toni. "The rally is very quick which suits me perfectly. This is exactly the sort of event that I enjoy. My aim is to score points again for Škoda Motorsport, as we have done in all rallies so far this year."

Škoda Motorsport team principal Pavel Janeba commented: "There's a lot we've learned about this event since making our debut in New Zealand last year, and we have carried out some tests in Spain. As always, our aim will be to do the best we possibly can. The weather might be different this year to what we have seen in the past, because the event now takes place at a different time of the year, but that shouldn't make much difference provided conditions stay the same for everybody."

Each round of the World Rally Championship has its own unique characteristics, which makes it so interesting for the drivers and the viewers. The Rallye Monte Carlo is famous for its snowy and icy tarmac roads, the Swedish Rally is known for its fast snow tracks through the woods, and the Turkisch Rally sees very rough and twisty gravel roads. The Antipodean event of next week is characterised by fast, flowing gravel roads which plunge through the bright green countryside like a rollercoaster.

After a ceremonial start in Auckland on Thursday night (April 10), drivers tackle nine stages near Paparoa on Friday. On Saturday drivers face six more stages, including the longest stage in the World Championship (Parahi Ararua, at 59 kilometres) and two runs over the Manukau spectator superspecial. The final day contains six more special stages, bringing the total competitive distance up to 407 kilometres. The first car is due to cross the finish ramp on Sunday 13 April at 1530.

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Series WRC
Drivers Didier Auriol , Toni Gardemeister