|Rd.8 Propecia Rally New Zealand|
Production Car World Rally Championship Rd.8
17 to 19 November 2006
Latvala Victorious as Nasser Crowned World Champion
19 November 2006
For SUBARU, it was a hugely-rewarding rally, the first four places in Group N going to the Japanese manufacturer. Behind Latvala, Kiwi driver Richard Mason secured second place on the last of the morning group of tests, with newcomer Alexander Dorosinskiy leaping two places on the final stage to take a podium on his first-ever world championship event. Japanese rookie Takuma Kamada was fourth.
The day's six stages totaled over 95 competitive kilometers, run as two groups of three tests, punctuated by a mid-day Service.
The final leg was filled with drama right from the opening moments. Erstwhile leader Jari-Matti Latvala would start the day 57 seconds behind chief rival Mirco Baldacci in the Mitsubishi after a penalty imposed by the stewards. It looked as if there would be a huge fight between the lead pair, but unfortunately for Jari-Matti, Baldacci retired with gearbox failure after two stages, denying the Finn the opportunity of a real fight to the finish.
Mason had a great run throughout the last day, despite a puncture in the morning which lost the Kiwi driver a lot of time. He had no problems on the second run-through, ending the event with a nice safe run to second place overall.
Outgoing world champion Toshi Arai reported no dramas in the morning group of tests; though the Japanese would end the event on SupeRally, a transmission problem on the finish line of the last stage placing him just out of the points in ninth.
Alexander Dorosinskiy acquitted himself very well indeed on his first-ever world championship event, his steady pace rewarded with a podium as the Russian driver concentrated on keeping Mitsubishi rival Fumio Nutahara behind and denying him any extra championship points.
Takuma Kamada took it easy in the morning, making sure he survived what had been a tough rally for the Japanese driver. Finishing in fourth place (his best result in the PCWRC) was a great relief.
Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah stopped on the second stage of the morning with an engine problem, but it was academic as his gap ahead of chief rival in the points' battle Fumio Nutahara was too far back to be a threat. Nasser's title was secure, and he could finally bask in the glory of success after consistently giving one of the most exciting performances in the PCWRC throughout the 2006 season.
George Donaldson - STI Group N Project General Manager:
"It's been an amazing event at the end of an incredible year for the PCWRC drivers. At the beginning of the season we thought we would see Toshi Arai come back and possibly do a double championship run. However, the PCWRC is no walk-over and despite a fantastic start to the year, Toshi quickly fell foul of the pace and his luck seemed to desert him for the better part of the season.
"Our Imprezas this year have demonstrated once again that they are fully up to the challenge, although it is by no means easy. The partnership between STI and all the drivers in the championship continues to grow stronger as we work together for mutual success."
"This has been the fourth Production rally crown in a row for SUBARU, and that magical number of five next year is an exciting target, though we know our rivals will come back tougher and stronger in 2007. I believe we can achieve the highest goal, and we already have great interest for next year and perhaps we may see a full entry in the Production championship. We expect that at least with fifteen of these drivers will be in SUBARUs."
"I'd like to say goodbye to everyone and I hope we've made a good journal this year. Thank you very much and we look forward to relating our stories to you next year, starting in Sweden, February 2007."