|Rd.8 Propecia Rally New Zealand|
Production Car World Rally Championship Rd.8
17 to 19 November 2006
Latvala still fastest as Nasser sets sights on Crown
18 November 2006
Jari-Matti Latvala commented that the morning's stages had been phenomenally difficult to get through, some of the toughest he has been on. He touched a bank at one point on SS8 but reported no significant damage or time lost.
Toshi Arai retired in Service before any of the day's stages got underway, a shift linkage problem sidelining the Japanese. The team was devastated with the news, particularly after his performance yesterday.
Richard Mason continued his strong form, jumping into fourth at the end of SS6, then grabbing third on the following test it was a position he would maintain until the end of the leg.
"I thought we'd be a little quicker, to be honest. I'm really enjoying the challenge. We've got some of my favourite stages to run tomorrow, so I'm really looking forward to that."
His compatriot Chris West fared rather worse today, a roll putting the former New Zealand rally champion into retirement on SS9. With West's car blocking the road, along came Takuma Kamada. He and co-driver Denis Giraudet assessed that all looked OK and continued on, losing about 10 seconds getting around the stricken SUBARU. Leszek Kuzaj was next along, and he too tried to squeeze by, but unfortunately slipped off the road in his attempt and ended his day right there. Both West and co-driver Gary Cowan were unhurt in the accident.
Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah had a good run today, taking it easy throughout the stages. Nutahara's retirement has taken all the pressure of the driver's championship away; all he has to do now is wait until tomorrow afternoon.
Nasser had his work cut out for him early on today however, the desert resident rarely having to tackle such extremely wet conditions. "I was absolutely shocked, you know. It was much more difficult than I had expected." commented the Qatari driver afterwards. The champion-elect had a drama-free afternoon, taking things at a steady pace and without any risks. He's just waiting for the end of the rally to claim his crown.
Alexander Dorosinskiy was another man on the move today, the Russian PCWRC debutant climbing to a creditable sixth place after starting the day in ninth. His day was dramatic in that the car wouldn't start out of Parc Ferme, though this was resolved in Service, albeit with a slight time penalty to the team. He then suffered a broken gearbox; third and fifth gear not working. They changed that, though incurred another time penalty.
"I don't actually think I drove very well today; maybe as a schoolbus driver, but with my driving this weekend, I'm not happy."
George Donaldson - STI Group N Project General Manager:
"It's been an incredible day's rallying - really tough out there for the crews. I'm very happy to see that the SUBARU guys who have been leading the charge have come out on top. However, losing Toshi in Service this morning is a bit of a hard break for us."
"Nasser has been cruising along, and obviously the pressure has been lifted as Fumio crashed out earlier today. He was happy to know that the accident wasn't very big and that nobody was injured - always an important issue. Losing Chris West was very disappointing; but Richard Mason has shown a great turn of performance and all strength to the guy for that.
"Leszek Kuzaj has continued to have a very difficult event, slipping off the road while trying to pass Chris West's rolled car. I expect Leszek to go out there tomorrow and show us his normal top pace. At least if he can take away something from this event; that will stand him in good stead for next year."
"Takuma Kamada had another difficult day, proving that running in the world championship is no pushover at all. He had a nervous car this morning, and also not perfect with his tyre choice. He's still very much in the fight, running fifth in PCWRC. We wish him and Denis the very best of luck tomorrow."
Footnote: Jari-Matti Latvala has a pending time penalty of one minute which may be applied.