|Rd.8 Telstra Rally Australia|
Production Car World Rally Championship Rd.8
11 to 13 November 2005
Toshi is leading PCWRC
SUBARU maintains top four positions after full of dramas
12 November 2005
Day two of this year's Telstra Rally Australia dawned bright and clear; with weather conditions staying sunny throughout the day, temperatures reaching 24 degrees by lunch. One compromise of the idyllic conditions was the lack of any breeze, meaning that dust thrown up by cars hung in the air for what seemed like ages, compromising visibility for drivers and fans alike.
It was shortly after that he encountered the famous watersplash at Bunnings. The lower profile at the front of the car due to the puncture meant water got into the engine, causing it to die momentarily - though they were able to get going again, with only a few seconds lost.
Mark maintained a pace almost identical to Toshi's for the next couple of stages, running in second place until SS17 (Beraking), when Aki Teiskonen overtook the current British Rally Champion. On the following stage, a spin cost Higgins another 20-odd seconds, and a stoved-in rear of the car after some contact with the scenery.
Toshi was his usual calm self, never showing any stress as he led the PCWRC competitors throughout the bulk of the day's tests, controlling the pace and maintaining a comfortable lead of about 1 minute, 20 seconds.
Gabriele Pozzo, quite possibly the most impressive driver among the STI-equipped SUBARU runners on the opening day, had a disastrous first stage today, losing more than a minute - and dropping from third to fifth place. He kept up a good pace throughout the day, almost identical to leader Arai's, inheriting fourth place on SS17 after getting ahead of Mitsubishi driver Fumio Nutahara.
Nasser Al Attiyah, who had been going so strongly all day yesterday, was hampered by a total lack of turbo boost this morning, considerably slowing his progress on today's stages. He managed to hold on to sixth place throughout Leg two's seven forest stages, and was the top SUBARU runner in the Superspecials, scoring 2nd both times, just behind Nutahara.
Al Attiyah needs only to finish in the position he's presently in (sixth), with Marcos Ligato finishing out of the points (he's presently in tenth) for the Qatari driver to clinch 2nd place in the PCWRC drivers' title. With Ligato some 28 minutes away from the lowest points-scoring position, Nasser needs only to maintain his current position - and pace, to secure the vice-champion laurels tomorrow afternoon.
"Yes, it's been good today. We've enjoyed the stages. There have been many, many rocks on the road, and it's very easy to get a puncture. I'm planning on taking it carefully for the last few tests, keeping my margin over the next car - but not taking too many risks."
"Everything was going perfectly until the puncture. Naturally, we're very disappointed at losing the lead, but we're still only half way through the rally, and there's time yet to make up some of the lost ground."
STI Group N Project General Manager George Donaldson:
"Although Toshi Arai's seemingly well out in front with just the final Leg to run, it would take only a puncture for that situation to be suddenly reversed. We saw what happened to Mark Higgins this morning; and to Gabriele Pozzo too. They both survived, but it shows just how easy it is to lose the lead - or a margin over the car behind. He's run a very well-paced event so far, though there's 100 kilometres to run tomorrow as anything can happen on the final day of an event - and it usually does. It is impossible to make any predictions at this stage as it's still all to play for."
The final day of competition gets underway rather earlier than the preceding two legs, with crews leaving parc ferme at 06:30 hours for the final 100 kilometres of stages. Comprising six stages in total - two loops of three tests each, with the longest stage of the event, the Helena North test (29.93kms) the penultimate test before the ceremonial finish in Perth.