Rd.5 Rally New Zealand

Production Car World Rally Championship
31 Aug. to 2 Sep. 2007


Niall leads, Toshi's third and closing inů

1 September 2007
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The second day of competition on this year's Rally New Zealand saw returnee and former P-WRC champion Niall McShea move into the lead on the second test of the morning, building up a gap of one minute over his nearest rival by day's end. It was a superb day also for another former P-WRC champion, as Toshi Arai climbed from 11th all the way up to third by the end of the leg.

Not so fortunate was Evgeniy Vertunov, who after very strong form in the morning fell to eighth on SS8, and then further down after going on to SupeRally. Other competitors to go on SupeRally included Emma Gilmour (SS11) and Spyros Pavlides (SS10).

Leader Niall McShea had a brief spin on SS6, but then took over the lead on SS7, the 13.88-kilometre Possum stage, after passing Araujo in the stage. On SS8 he spun on a very fast crest. He was second quickest through SS9, the Mystery Creek Superspecial. After lunch, his tryre choice for SS10 wasn't optimal; but on the last test of the day, SS11, he had the right spares for the conditions. A little issue when the steering column came unbolted later on wasn't a major problem.

Takuma Kamada didn't start this morning due to being in too much pain from pulled muscles. He is listed as a retirement.

Patrik Flodin retired, citing a continuing engine problem.

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Toshi Arai had a superb start when he set the 2nd quickest time on the opening stage, SS6 - even after going off twice. This was followed by two stage wins in succession, promoting the Japanese ace to sixth - and that was before he'd had lunch! On SS10 he moved up another position; then bagged two more places on the day's last (and longest) stage. He presently lies 1:00.2 behind leader McShea, and just 1.4 seconds adrift of 2nd-placed Gabriele Pozzo. He's expected to pass the Argentine on tomorrow's opener, the 5.34km Maungatawhiri 1 test.

Mirco Baldacci was planning on stopping by lunchtime because he was feeling so ill from a bout of food poisoning. However, his condition improved in the afternoon, as his stage times attest (3rd on SS10, 2nd on SS11). "I'm looking forward to tomorrow, but am really disappointed with the problems we've experienced here."

Evgeniy Vertunov had a great start to the day, maintaining third position over the opening two stages. Unfortunately for the Russian, a puncture on SS8 dropped him to eighth. On the next test he was only slightly off the pace; but further woes awaited; and after damaging his gearbox on SS10, he went onto SupeRally, ending the day in a disappointing 13th overall.

Emma Gilmour: "On SS6 and SS7 this morning the car felt great, but then on SS8 the steering started to feel a bit vague." She came back to Service but the team couldn't find anything wrong with the car. In the afternoon, she chose to take it a little easier and go into SupeRally in order to have lots of time to get the car right for tomorrow and put in a really good day's running.

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Richard Mason had a strong showing in the morning, but had a half spin on SS7. He moved into third on SS8, despite a really big spin, and managed to keep the position through the next test. Then on SS10, Te Akau South (31.92kms), he set the quickest time, netting 2nd overall. SS11, the slightly longer Te Akau North (32.36kms), saw him suffer a broken gearbox, dropping him to 5th at the end of the leg.

Spyros Pavlides went off the road on SS10 and onto SupeRally. He will re-start tomorrow.

Misfer Al Marri has settled into the pace they've targeted, about 2-seconds a kilometre off the leaders'. Misfer's very experienced co-driver Chris Patterson says they're now targeting a nice, clean easy finish.

George Donaldson

STI Group N Project General Manager:
"It's been an unbelievable day again here in Production championship. It's everything we know to expect from the series, yet every time gives us a shock. We're now going into the most dramatic leg of any rally we do - leg three of Rally New Zealand always bringing its fair share of joy and tears. We're hoping that Niall can pull off just as memorable a win as Jari-Matti Latvala did last year. He now has a minute lead over a very-struggling Gabriele Pozzo, who used the last of his good tyres today. This leaves Toshi to make an attack on Niall. He needs to finish in the top three to keep his championship alive. This is his second last event of the season, so he needs to consolidate his position.

"For Niall, he's on limited outings this year and is eager to get the best result he can - for him, the gloves are off. This is only the second rally he's done in the last two seasons. What a remarkable performance we're seeing from the 2004 Production champion. He says he's not at all happy with his speed; but he's kept his nose cleaner than the rest. Despite the problems, he's grown that lead to a minute.

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"Richard Mason would have been breathing down Niall's neck; possibly he could have gotten to within 40 or 45 seconds of him but for his very unfortunate gearbox breakage which cost him a huge amount of time. Looking at the times, a podium is still a possibility for Richard, though he's got a lot to do.

"Further down the field, we lost Spyros to SupeRally when he made a mistake and slipped off the road. Loris Baldacci is tootling along, battling for ninth. That could easily become a points' position of course.

"Misfer Al Marri from QMMF, Nasser's replacement for this rally, is on his first overseas event outside Qatar - and the guy's doing a great job - a trouble-free run, not a mark on the car. There are high hopes for him to come back and do more in the championship next year.

"Emma Gilmour's had a miserable rally - various little problems, and now a real issue with the steering rack not working properly at all. Hopefully we're going to see Emma tomorrow with a fresh new car, making a great result.

"Mirco Baldacci was feeling a bit better this afternoon, the car going very well. We've got it all to do tomorrow. Niall and Toshi are very much in the fight for the lead. Niall looks comfortable, but we know that on the last day of Rally New Zealand it's not going to be easy. We hope they can consolidate their positions and that Richard can move up for what would be a dream result. Let's hope we come way tomorrow with some of the spoils."

Tomorrow's stages are by no means easy ones, the scene of plenty of upsets over the years. The two passes over the Whaanga Coast have possibly the most beautiful and dramatic scenery in all the world championship. The rally ends with crews tackling the third and final run through the Mystery Creek Superspecial.

Pos Driver Car Name Time   Diff  
1 Niall McSHEA SUBARU IMPREZA WRX STI 3:02:16.2 0.0
2 Gabriel POZZO Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 3:03:15.0 +58.8
3 Toshihiro ARAI SUBARU IMPREZA WRX STI 3:03:16.4 +1:00.2
4 Fumio NUTAHARA Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 3:03:40.9 +1:24.7
5 Richard MASON SUBARU IMPREZA WRX STI 3:04:14.4 +1:58.2
6 Martin RAUAM Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 3:04:19.7 +2:03.5
7 Armindo ARAUJO Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 3:04:53.2 +2:37.0
8 Juho HÄNNINEN Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 3:05:49.0 +3:32.8
9 Fabio FRESIERO Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 3:06:19.7 +4:03.5
10 Loris BALDACCI SUBARU IMPREZA WRX STI 3:06:32.6 +4:16.4