Rally New Zealand: Subaru final summary

555 Subaru World Rally Team driver, Petter Solberg maintained his overnight third position to collect six WRC Drivers' points, while team-mate Tommi Mäkinen was seventh, securing two WRC Drivers' points. Between them, the drivers collected nine...

555 Subaru World Rally Team driver, Petter Solberg maintained his overnight third position to collect six WRC Drivers' points, while team-mate Tommi Mäkinen was seventh, securing two WRC Drivers' points. Between them, the drivers collected nine Manufacturers' points for the Subaru World Rally Team.

Rounding off a successful event for Subaru, Toshi Arai put in an impressive performance at the wheel of a Subaru Impreza WRX to win the FIA Production Car Championship by a margin of 2 minutes 10.2 seconds. Also competing in a Subaru, local hero Bruce Herbert delighted his home crowds by finishing fourteenth.

Stage Reports

SS17 0823hrs Te Akau South Reverse (27.60km)
Fastest time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 15:49.7

The first stage of the day saw Marcus Gronholm secure his tenth stage win of the event and extend his lead to 1 minute 13.7 seconds over Richard Burns. With the top eleven competitors running in reverse order, the stage was the first indication of the amount of time that the front-runners would concede as they swept the roads clean. Running first, Carlos Sainz posted seventh fastest time, while Hirvonen and Mäkinen, running second and third respectively, were twelfth and sixth fastest. In overall third, a neat run from Subaru driver Petter Solberg through the test's twisty, downhill sections, saw the Norwegian set an impressive second fastest time.

SS18 0906hrs Te Akau North (32.37km)
Fastest time: Burns (Peugeot) 17:43.0

SS18 saw the Hyundai's Team's rally come to an early finish, when the 32.27km test, the longest stage of the day, claimed the team's remaining competitor, Freddy Loix. The Belgian clipped a bank in his Accent 12km in and rolled. The crew were uninjured, but were unable to rejoin the road and retirement was instant. He had been in fifth overall. Problems also for Citroen driver, Sebastian Loeb. The Frenchman suffered with a faulty gearbox sensor, and was forced to use the manual gearchange system. The incident cost him almost a minute, but he maintained fourth overall due to a three-minute cushion that he had built up between himself and fifth placed, Skoda driver Toni Gardemeister. Petter Solberg continued his impressive run and was third fastest, to remain in third overall, 43.6 seconds behind Burns. Mäkinen was fourth and moved up the leaderboard into eighth position and into the points.

SS19 1119hrs Ridge / Campbell 1 (16.45km)
Fastest time: Burns (Peugeot) 8:53.7

Richard Burns was fastest on the first of four tests run through the forestry plantations of Maramarua Forest. Running under clear skies and in temperatures of 16 degrees, the Brit finished 0.6 seconds faster than team-mate Gronholm, who was second. Petter Solberg was third and extended his lead over fourth-placed Loeb to more than two minutes. With three stages left to run, the Norwegian was looking good for a podium finish. His team-mate Mäkinen was fourth.

SS20 1147hrs Ridge / Campbell 2 (16.45km)
Fastest time: Burns (Peugeot) 8:46.9

As the tension mounted during the closing stages, eighth placed Tommi Mäkinen picked up the pace in his Subaru Impreza WRC2003 and posted another top five time, eating into Auriol's overall lead in seventh. Assisted also by a 10 second time penalty, which Auriol picked up for a jump-start, at the end of the test Mäkinen lay just 7.3 seconds behind the Frenchman, with 21.2km left to run. Richard Burns was quickest, finishing the repeated 16.45km stage 6.9 seconds faster than his previous run to pick up his fifth stage win of the event.

SS21 1240hrs Fyfe 1 (10.60km)
Fastest time: Burns (Peugeot) 5:42.3

As the crowds turned out to watch the remaining competitors charge through the penultimate test, the fast Fyfe run, all eyes were on the battle for seventh between Mäkinen and Auriol. Posting the fourth fastest time, Mäkinen finished just ahead of his French rival, shaving a further 0.4 seconds from the Skoda driver's overall lead. At the finish, 6.9 seconds separated the pair. Burns was again fastest, followed by team-mate Gronholm. Conditions in the stage were dry, with temperatures hovering around 16 degrees. Subaru star, Petter suffered a small spin but still managed to finish sixth fastest.

SS22 1310hrs Fyfe 2 (10.60km)
Fastest time: Burns (Peugeot) 5:36.9

The final test saw no dramas, and Gronholm cruised through the take the second fastest time and the overall event win - his third in New Zealand. Burns was fastest for second overall, while Petter finished the stage third, the same position that he secured overall. Mäkinen's time was good enough to clinch him seventh position, while a broken turbo on Auriol's Skoda Octavia saw the Frenchman drop over half a minute to the leaders and finish eighth in the overall standings. Alister McRae, competing in his first WRC event since Sanremo last year, was sixth.

Team Quotes

David Lapworth , 555 Subaru World Rally Team Principal:

"It was a good solid performance from Petter this weekend and he did exactly what we asked him to. Both cars have been 100 per cent reliable for the whole three days. We've bench-marked our progress over the last six months and it's clear that we are progressing in the right direction. We're looking forward to taking a few more steps up the podium on the coming events. I'd also like to offer my congratulations to Toshi Arai on his victory in the Production Cup, and to Ramana Lagemann, the only USA entrant, on finishing his first ever WRC event in tenth position in Group N - both in Subaru Imprezas."

Petter Solberg:

"It was my plan before the rally to get onto the podium so I'm very happy. We didn't push too hard, and after a tricky start to the season we've got six points today. We're getting closer and closer to the top, and this is the way to do it. The car and tyres have been working well. We've got a little bit more work to do, but we're getting there and I'm really looking forward to Argentina."

Tommi Mäkinen:

"The event itself has been very good. It's been good weather, very different to the normal conditions of the New Zealand Rally, but it's been difficult for me. On our side, it hasn't really been one hundred per cent. Things felt very good before the event, but on the stages, it just didn't feel the same. It's always good to get some points and we didn't have any potential driver points when we started this morning. So, to come away with some for both ourselves and the team is a positive way to finish. I'm looking forward very much to Argentina now. It's a rally that I like and we should get some good points in the next few rallies coming up."

News from Pirelli

Fiore Brivio, Pirelli Tyres Rally Manager: "Both Tommi and Petter have been happy with their choice of tyres today. Tommi continued with the PZero K pattern tyre with a mid range compound, while Petter retained the PZero KM tyre, again with the mid range compound."

Next Event

In three weeks time, teams will travel over 11,000km to Argentina for Round 5 of the 2003 FIA World Rally Championship. Including stunning scenery, water splashes and high average speeds, the event is one of the highlights of the season. Beginning on 9 May, the event includes twisty, quick roads and awkward surface changes. It will be based around a central single service park in La Cumbre and include 388.94 competitive kilometres and 25 stages.


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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Tommi Makinen , Carlos Sainz , Freddy Loix , Richard Burns , Marcus Gronholm , Petter Solberg , Alister McRae , Toni Gardemeister
Teams Citroën World Rally Team