Special 'Stage of Attrition' Doubly Damaging to 555 Subaru Auckland, New Zealand, Sunday, July 26, 1998 -- Torrential rain, landslides and blustery winds greeted the crews on the second leg of the 1998 Rally of New Zealand today. Special Stage...
Special 'Stage of Attrition' Doubly Damaging to 555 Subaru
Auckland, New Zealand, Sunday, July 26, 1998 -- Torrential rain, landslides and blustery winds greeted the crews on the second leg of the 1998 Rally of New Zealand today. Special Stage 12 caused serious problems for the 555 Subaru World Rally Team as a spin cost Colin McRae third place, and Finnish recruit Juha Kangas further participation in the competition.
Colin McRae and Nicky Grist still head into the final day of competition well within reach of the leaders in fourth position, while the Italian pair of Piero Liatti and Fabrizia Pons pushed hard, making up two places and returning to Auckland in seventh after overnighting in ninth.
The Toyota twosome of Didier Auriol and Carlos Sanz maintained their one-two positions atop the leaderboard, while Mitsubishi's Richard Burns was in third overnight.
The stages in the Maungaturoto forests suffered in the conditions; swollen rivers burst their banks and landslides created treacherous tracks, causing cancellation of two stages as more than 40 centimetres of water flooded the surface. McRae started his challenge early, but a misting windscreen hampered his efforts on the opening stage and two near spins left the Scot four seconds adrift of Sainz. The time lost to the spin on SS12 cost the hard driving Scot one position, but he was equal to his rivals on the following section when no fewer than four drivers were separated by less than a second. As the day drew to a close and darkness began to fall, the Scot maintained a competitive pace but bent the Subaru's steering when he ran wide on the penultimate stage.
"It was difficult first thing this morning and we had a couple of moments because the screen just kept misting up. It's impossible to push hard when you can't see properly," stated Colin. "We spun on the next stage, stalled and lost time restarting the car - if it hadn't been for that and losing about 20 seconds, we would have equalled Didier's fastest time for sure. I don't think it was a bad decision to drop four seconds last night so we didn't have to start first this morning - we've just had a few problems and the car felt a bit nervous earlier. In general the stages haven't been too bad, certainly not as bad as everyone thought they might be. Tomorrow's stages will be interesting - the long one, run twice, is sure to see an about-turn of fortunes for a lot of people."
Ironically, Liatti made up two spots even though he suffered with his running position (ninth) on the road and struggled to match the leading times running in thick churned-up mud. "By the time we were running the stages, more mud had been thrown into the road from other drivers cutting corners and it was all mixed up with the gravel and stones from the harder base. Also, on one stage we had to slow right down to avoid a landslide that wasn't even there for the car running in front of us. We pushed hard but we were definitely at a disadvantage today," said Piero.
Juha Kangas saw his rally came to premature end on stage 12. "The pace note on a long corner wasn't quite right and we went wide and off the edge of the road," said Juha. "We then slid sideways about 10 metres down the hill and through the trees. Apparently it is quite a notorious corner where people go off - two other cars went off right after us - but obviously that is no consolation. I am very disappointed. We took it fairly steady because I wanted to get to the end and we were on course for a top-10 finish, which was my goal."
Monday's third and final leg covers 182 competitive kilometres and seven special stages. Opening the leg is the longest test of the rally (Te Koraha), run twice in succession, and a good bet to shake up the leaderboard. Renowned for his record in New Zealand and on long stages, Colin McRae is poised to take the field by storm in the 47- kilometre sections.