|Rd.8 Propecia Rally New Zealand|
Production Car World Rally Championship Rd.8
17 to 19 November 2006
Jari-Matti Leads the Way after First Leg
17 November 2006
Comprising two passes of a pair of stages, one of which is over 43 kilometres long, and ending with the evening Superspecial spectator stage in the Mystery Creek Event Centre, Leg one saw competitors run 132 competitive kilometers over the course of the day.
The opening leg dawned with lots of muddy and very slippery patches on the first pass over the stages before the first Service. The second run through the stages was much drier, providing very different conditions to the morning.
One of the most dramatic moments of the morning came when Jari-Matti had a huge, fifth-gear spin on SS2, the very long Te Koraha 1 test (43.88kms). He somehow managed to keep control through the spin and lost only around 10 seconds. After the Lunchtime Service, he was back on top as the crews tackled the second pass of the Prongia West 1 stage (20.37kms) snatching the lead back from fellow SUBARU runner Toshi Arai. It was a position he would maintain to the end of the day, with a lead of over 11 seconds after the Superspecial.
Toshi had a drama-free morning, taking the lead off Jari-Matti Latvala on SS2 as the only guy close enough to do so.
"The car was a little too active this morning, so we made some small changes to the geometry at the Lunchtime Service in the hopes of making the car more stable. The afternoon was fine, nothing scary except when we lightly touched a fence at high speed. No damage and no problems, though."
Points' leader Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah looked to be taking a relatively cautious approach in the morning, climbing from 9th at the end of the first stage to seventh before lunch. He lifted his pace in the afternoon, netting sixth on SS3 and staying there for the rest of the day.
Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah:
"It's difficult to settle on the perfect pace as I'm not going flat-out but we're going at a safe pace, and quick enough to stay in touch with Fumio Nutahara (Nasser's only rival capable of taking the driver's title)."
Standing in for Sergei Uspenskiy in the #42 car is fellow Russian competitor Alexander Dorosinskiy, satisfied with his day's progress, though certain he had been hampered by a turbo lag problem, as well as a tyre choice issue in the morning. He came back to the Service Park with the car a little shortened after coming across a crest rather too quickly, using the barrier on the outside of the corner to guide the car around. It looked dramatic, but he lost only a few seconds in the process.
"This morning we had no problems, the car is great. We had maybe the wrong tyre choice in the morning, but we are enjoying very much our first rally in New Zealand."
Takuma Kamada reported no problems throughout the morning, but tried a little too hard in the afternoon, somewhat compromising his overall pace. As well as a less than optimal tyre choice for the afternoon's conditions, he had a puncture on SS3, losing a fair bit of time.
"We had a good morning, but then things happened in the afternoon. The tyres were definitely the wrong choice, cut far too deeply for the now dry roads. That slowed our progress. Also we had a puncture which also cost time. Our objective tomorrow is to drive a clean and tidy set of stages and see where we come out at the end of the day."
Leszek Kuzaj went on to SupeRally on SS3 after taking a heft-hand corner 30-40kph too quickly, the car crashing through some vegetation and coming to rest on the edge of a cliff. The crew decided it would be safer to wait for the sweeper car to come round and pull them out of the predicament rather than risk dropping the car 30 metres straight down.
Chris West suffered a puncture on SS2, 15 kilometres in to the stage. It took two or three more kilometers for him to find a safe place to change it, losing the Kiwi driver another minute in addition to the three minutes it took to put on the spare.
Richard Mason reported no dramas throughout the day, with a metronomic fifth place on all five of the day's tests.
George Donaldson - STI Group N Project General Manager:
"It's been a very interesting opening day here in New Zealand. Nasser's done what he's needed to do; it's not an easy thing to drive at a slower pace than his normal top-of-the-field performance and he is struggling with it, but he's managed very well today."
"Chris West, having had a terrible day today, is going to go out tomorrow and show that he's got the pace of the PCWRC frontrunners. I think he can do it as he was very quick here last year, running very quickly throughout the event. Fellow countryman Richard Mason has driven very steadily and quickly today and we'll wait and see what he produces tomorrow as he is a super-disciplined driver. I expect Richard will attempt to lift his pace as he is close to the front group. Leszek Kuzaj slipped off the road on SS3 in very dramatic style. Typically for Leszek, he has held his hand up and takes full responsibility for his driving error."