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Discussion Starter #1
Next Round 7: Brother Rally New Zealand 21-24 June

For rally drivers, New Zealand comes very close to rallying nirvana. The sweeping, rollercoaster roads and lush green scenery will look very familiar to anybody who has seen The Lord of the Rings, filmed entirely on location in New Zealand. There is a magical atmosphere to the whole country and its return to the World Rally Championship calendar in 2012 following a one-year absence is keenly anticipated.

The stages consist mainly of fast and cambered smooth gravel roads in spectacular valleys amid breath-taking scenery, while some asphalt sections will feature on the competitive route.

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23,369 Posts
Discussion Starter #2 (Edited)
Latvala leads way in NZ qualifying

Ford's Jari-Matti Latvala set the pace today in the qualifying stage for this weekend's Rally New Zealand.

Latvala completed the 5.06 kilometre Inland Road test in 2 minutes 31.86 seconds, putting him 0.37 seconds up on his former team-mate, Mikko Hirvonen. Latvala will now get first choice of start position for the opening day.

“I had a very good feeling. We did a little modification to the rear diff and I was more comfortable with the car, we were using hard tyres in the morning so the times were not so good but we used the softs now,” Latvala remarked.

Hirvonen added: “I made one small mistake but overall I was really struggling on the shakedown to find a good setup and rhythm, but that [the qualifying stage] was awesome. The last couple of corners were just perfect. I really enjoyed it.”

Petter Solberg meanwhile was third, 0.17 seconds off Hirvonen, followed by Sebastien Loeb and Thierry Neuville, the latter standing in for Nasser Al-Attiyah and competing under the Qatar WRT banner.

“I tried to get the feeling; we haven't driven since Greece but the feeling is still good. No problem, maybe a small mistake but Mikko did a very good time,” Solberg said.

Behind, Ott Tanak took sixth for the M-Sport Ford WRT, with Dani Sordo, Jari Ketomaa, Evgeny Novikov and Manfred Stohl rounding out the top ten.

Drivers will now select their start positions in a few hours time. Rally New Zealand then begins proper on Friday, with SS1, the 11.18 kilometre Te Hutewai 1 test, starting at 08.28 hours [local time].

Rally New Zealand: Qualifying stage:

1. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC 2mins 31.86secs M
2. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +0.37secs M
3. Petter Solberg Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +0.54secs M
4. Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +0.89secs M
5. Thierry Neuville Qatar WRT Citroen DS3 WRC +1.09secs M
6. Ott Tanak M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +1.27secs M
7. Dani Sordo Prodrive WRC Team MINI John Cooper Works WRC +1.37secs
8. Jari Ketomaa Ford Fiesta RS WRC +2.08s
9. Evgeny Novikov M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +2.32s M
10. Manfred Stohl Brazil WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +5.79s M
11. Ken Block Monster WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +5.91s
12. Armindo Araujo WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC +6.41s
13. Paulo Nobre WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC +19.90secs

all times unofficial



Rivals split on start order choice in NZ

Ford's Jari-Matti Latvala has chosen to run 13th in the order on the opening day of Rally New Zealand, a different strategy to his key rivals.

Latvala got first pick of position after he was quickest in the qualifying stage [see separate story - here]. He then opted for a position as far down the order as possible so as to avoid having to clean the road. Mikko Hirvonen was next up to choose after being second quickest in qualifying, but with the possibility of rain, he elected to run at the head of the pack, a choice mirrored by Petter Solberg and Sebastien Loeb, who will run second and third respectively.

“The plan was that obviously as we are [heading] south tomorrow there is more gravel on the top surface than ever before. I know it's winter and there is still a risk with the rain but I still believe when you do 200 stage kilometres and it will be dry at some point so I think the road will need cleaning, so that's why we want to be further back. I'm not so scared about starting so far back,” Latvala explained.

The full starting order for the 13 priority seeded drivers is as follows:

Rally New Zealand: Day 1 running order:

1. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC M
2. Petter Solberg Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC M
3. Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC M
4. Ott Tanak M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC M
5. Dani Sordo Prodrive WRC Team MINI John Cooper Works WRC
6. Jari Ketomaa Ford Fiesta RS WRC
7. Evgeny Novikov M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC M
8. Manfred Stohl Brazil WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC
9. Ken Block Monster WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC
10. Armindo Araujo WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC
11. Paulo Nobre WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC
12. Thierry Neuville Qatar WRT Citroen DS3 WRC M
13. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC M



Ken Block says World Rally Championship format hurts privateers

Ken Block says the current World Rally Championship regulations are hampering his chances of developing as a driver.

The American Gymkhana star is only competing on three WRC rounds this season. This year the day one running order on gravel rallies is set by allowing the fastest drivers from qualifying to have first choice of their road position. Block was only 11th quickest in New Zealand qualifying on Thursday so is likely to be among the drivers running in the worst of the dusty conditions on Friday's opening loop of competition south of Auckland.

"I'm facing the fact that I'm coming here to sweep roads for factory drivers," said Block. "The FIA is putting private drivers in a scenario that hurts private drivers. Other championships try to promote all the competitors and when one driver is winning a lot they might even put more weight on that car, but here they put everything in favour of the factory guys."

Block said he would not let his position on the road hinder his enjoyment of the stages.

"There will be a substantial amount of sweeping tomorrow," said Block, "but it is what it is and I'm going to just go out and enjoy myself. I love this country and these roads."

Block is no stranger to New Zealand, having contested four rounds of the New Zealand Rally Championship in 2007.

"I had a great time that year," he said. "I was driving a Group N car and wanted more experience - and we don't run Group N in America. I finished on the podium on my fourth event, which was a good achievement given how specialised these roads are."



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Discussion Starter #3

SS1: Latvala's choice pays off

Jari-Matti Latvala's choice of a lowly spot in the Brother Rally New Zealand start order proved absolutely correct on Te Hutewai, stage one of the event.

Amid fears of rain for Friday's opening day, both works Citroen drivers and Ford's Petter Solberg had opted to go early in the running order for leg one - contrary to usual practice in New Zealand where the roads tend to be among the most dusty of the season for those opening the stages.

With Friday dawning dry and clear, Latvala found 13th place on the road to be ideal, and came through to win the stage by 2.8 seconds over Citroen's Mikko Hirvonen and 3.5s over the #1 Citroen of Sebastien Loeb.

But Latvala's main concern at the end of the stage was the plight of his team-mate Petter Solberg, who was the only one of the frontrunners to opt for hard rather than soft tyres, and lost 18s, leaving him seventh.

"I know there are a couple of places where I went wide but it's OK. I'm more worried about Petter losing so much time on this stage," said Latvala. "I hope he won't suffer like that anymore. It's very difficult now for Petter on the next stage."

click: ss1

Overall 18. 43 K. BLOCK 8:18.4 +1.0 +40.0


SS2: Hirvonen charges clear

Mikko Hirvonen surged into the Brother Rally New Zealand lead on stage two, Whaanga Coast, as road conditions turned in Citroen's favour after Ford driver Jari-Matti Latvala's stage one win.

While Latvala chose to run at the tail of the World Rally Car field in the day one starting order, the Citroens and the second Ford of Petter Solberg are all early in the running order, having anticipated rain.

Although everything had gone Latvala's way on stage one, Whaanga Coast brought more dampness and mud, and that meant first man on the road Hirvonen was able to stretch out a 10.9-second lead over Citroen team-mate Sebastien Loeb and 11.5s over erstwhile leader Latvala - despite not being entirely happy with the stage.

"There was a lot more loose gravel on the road than in the recce," said Hirvonen. "There was so much of that now in the fast section."

Loeb, third on the road, reported that the surface was already getting more difficult in Hirvonen's wake.

"For sure we need the soft tyre in the morning, it's getting very muddy," said Loeb. "Mikko was 10s faster than me and part of that was because he's first on the road and it's getting muddy behind. I've done a good stage, it's OK."

click: ss2

Overall 17. 43 K. BLOCK 30:49.7 +3.4 +2:16.7


SS3: Loeb fights back

The tense early battle for the Brother Rally New Zealand lead took another twist on stage three, Te Akau South, as Sebastien Loeb went quickest and inched closer to his Citroen team-mate Mikko Hirvonen.

As had been the case on the previous stage, the roads were wet and muddy in places, meaning running early in the order was no disadvantage for the Citroens - but neither was it really damp enough to harm Jari-Matti Latvala's pace as the Ford driver came through at the tail of the World Rally Car field.

Loeb was quickest by 1.7 seconds over Latvala and 3.4s ahead of stage-opener Hirvonen, bringing the world champion to within 7.5s of his rally-leading Finnish team-mate. Latvala is only 2.3s further back in third.

There was a change for fourth place as Thierry Neuville lost several seconds when he spun his Qatar World Rally Team Citroen. That error by Neuville and a quick time from the Russian elevated Evgeny Novikov into fourth, ahead of his M-Sport Ford team-mate Ott Tanak.

Frustration continued for Petter Solberg (Ford) on his hard tyres, as another relatively slow time left him still seventh in the overall order. The Norwegian is running 19s ahead of Dani Sordo's Prodrive WRC Team Mini, which is also having a tough time on the harder rubber.

There a major change in the Super 2000 World Rally Championship, as leader P-G Andersson retired, handing the lead to Haydon Paddon.

click: ss3


SS4: Citroen duo take charge

Mikko Hirvonen's lead over his Citroen team-mate Sebastien Loeb was down to just 3.9 seconds after stage four of Brother Rally New Zealand.

A second straight stage win for Loeb on Te Akau North saw the world champion almost halve his team-mate's advantage as the battle at the front became an all-Citroen affair.

The duo benefited from road conditions being wet enough to make their gamble of running early in the start order worthwhile. Jari-Matti Latvala and Ford preferred to go late, but so far this morning that has not worked out. Unhappy with his car's handling, Latvala dropped to 16s off the lead by the end of the morning loop.

M-Sport Ford's Evgeny Novikov and Ott Tanak are still fourth and fifth, as Qatar World Rally Team Citroen driver Thierry Neuville struggled with very worn tyres by the time stage four came around, and is now beginning to feel pressure from Petter Solberg (Ford) behind him.

Both PROTONS have now retired, so Hayden Paddon is a lonely Super 2000 World Rally Championship leader in 10th place overall.

click: ss4


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Discussion Starter #4
SS5: Loeb piles on the pressure

Sebastien Loeb reduced his Citroen team-mate Mikko Hirvonen's Brother Rally New Zealand lead to just 1.5s as he set the fastest time on stage five, the repeat of the Te Hutewai stage.

With some predicting that stage five would be the least wet of the loop, Hirvonen's position as first on the road had the potential to be costly as he cleared the loose surface from the top of the roads, but he only lost just over 2s to Loeb.

The world champion did not think there was a big cleaning effect yet, though, and was more concerned about how he would keep his soft tyres intact to the end of the day.

"I don't know if it's cleaning or not, but for sure it's hard for the tyre," said Loeb. "It will not be easy on this loop. You can do nothing, you have to drive on softs in these conditions."

Third-placed Jari-Matti Latvala was also slightly quicker than Hirvonen, but remains 15s off the lead and said he was saving tyre life for later in the afternoon.

"I think we were losing a bit to Loeb, but we also need to think about the tyres," said Latvala. "The long stages are now more important."

Both Ford World Rally Team entries are now on soft tyres after Petter Solberg's disastrous hard tyre choice this morning. The Norwegian was immediately on the pace following his tyre change at service, and has already reclaimed sixth from Thierry Neuville.

It was much closer straight away," said Solberg. "It was a very tough morning, I must say. Now I'll try and get into the rhythm properly."

click: ss5


SS6: Hirvonen gets some space

Mikko Hirvonen's stunning speed on the final part of the famous Whaanga Coast stage allowed him to rebuild a 7.6-second lead in his Brother Rally New Zealand battle with Citroen team-mate Sebastien Loeb.

The reigning world champion had been edging ever closer to Hirvonen with a string of fastest times on the preceding three stages.

But as had been the case in the morning, Hirvonen had the edge on Whaanga Coast, particularly its concluding section, and by the end of the stage he had been able to turn his tiny 1.5s lead into a slightly more comfortable 7.6s cushion. All Loeb could do was admire his team-mate's efforts.

"Mikko was again very fast at the end. I don't know why," said Loeb. "I can't match his speed there."

Hirvonen ended the stage on a concerned note, though, as he feared that the improving weather would start to penalise his position at the head of the start order.

"It has been drying a lot more than we expected," the Finn admitted. "If the next two stages are like that we could be in a little bit of trouble."

But he added: "I am having so much fun and this is a really great battle with Seb to be exchanging times back and forward like we are."

Third-placed Jari-Matti Latvala lost 10s to Hirvonen on the stage, and is now 25s off the lead, but the Ford man expects to reduce that gap over the final two Friday stages.

"I tried to save the tyres," Latvala explained. "The next two are the important ones - the long and fast stages."

click: ss6


SS7: Disaster for Latvala

Jari-Matti Latvala's bid for Brother Rally New Zealand victory appears to be over after a mistake on the second run through Te Akau South cost him four minutes and dropped his Ford Fiesta RS WRC from third to ninth place.

The Finn was trying to push to catch the leading Citroens on the two Te Akau stages after saving tyres earlier in the loop, but became entangled in a fence after a 'cut' on the inside of a corner went wrong. Latvala needed help from spectators to get going again, and eventually finished the stage 4m47s behind the leaders.

Sebastien Loeb was fastest on the stage, responding to his rally-leading Citroen team-mate Mikko Hirvonen's stage six pace by taking three seconds out of the Finn's lead on Te Akau South. The gap between the two Citroens is back down to 4.6s going into the final stage of leg one.

Latvala's error has elevated M-Sport Ford driver Evgeny Novikov to third place, but the Russian will have to keep an eye on flying works Ford World Rally Team driver Petter Solberg, who moved ahead of Novikov's team-mate Ott Tanak on stage seven and is now within 19.2s of third.

Thierry Neuville (Qatar Citroen), Dani Sordo (Prodrive Mini) and Armindo Araujo (Portugal Mini) occupy positions six, seven and eight, while behind the delayed Latvala a battle for 10th is brewing as Monster Ford driver Ken Block raises his pace and closes in on Brazil World Rally Team's returnee Manfred Stohl. Super 2000 World Rally Championship leader Hayden Paddon is close behind the two Ford World Rally Cars but is now nursing gearbox issues.


SS8: Loeb fastest

Sebastien Loeb has snatched the lead of Brother Rally New Zealand by winning the final stage of day one, the repeat of Te Akau North.

Driving a Citroen DS3 WRC, Loeb was 7.8s faster than Petter Solberg’s Ford Fiesta RS WRC with Citroen team-mate Mikko Hirvonen 8.6s down on the eight-time world champion.

It means Loeb now leads overall by 4.0s heading to the end of day service in Auckland. Hirvonen, meanwhile, said his soft-compound tyres were badly worn and lacked grip as a result.

Spain’s Dani Sordo was the leading MINI driver in fourth with M-Sport Ford privateer Ott Tanak fifth fastest, despite a moment, and the recovering Jari-Matti Latvala sixth quickest for Ford.

Suspected driveshaft problems for Manfred Stohl allowed Ken Block to snatch 10th overall, while Thierry Neuville felt he lost time getting caught behind Thierry Neuville.

New Zealand hero Hayden Paddon completed the stage but is concerned whether or not his Skoda Fabia S2000, which has clutch and gearbox issues, will be make it back to service in Auckland.



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Discussion Starter #5
Friday wrap:

Sebastien Loeb leads his Citroen Total World Rally team-mate Mikko Hirvonen by 4s in a Citroen DS3 WRC following the first full day of action at Brother Rally New Zealand, round seven of the 2012 FIA World Rally Championship.

Ford World Rally Team’s Jari-Matti Latvala was lying third until the Finnish driver collided with a fence on stage 7 and lost over four minutes trying to get his Ford Fiesta RS WRC back on the road. The incident saw Latvala drop back to ninth.

“I’m really, really disappointed. I can’t remember being this disappointed for a long time,” explained a disheartened Latvala.

“It was a combination left-right corner, but everyone had been cutting there so I went for the cut as well and the cars in front must have made a hole on the inside and the front-right wheel touched the hole and spun the car into a wire fence. The wire went into the front wheel and we couldn’t move anywhere. We had to wait until the farmer came with some side cutters but by that time I had lost four minutes," added the 27-year-old.

Team-mate Petter Solberg had an equally troubled day after the Norwegian lost over a minute this morning after opting for hard compound Michelin tyres. He finishes the day fourth overall.

“The soft tyre choice was definitely the best for this morning, and my choice to run second on the road seemed to work well given the road conditions,” explained rally leader Loeb. “But there is still a long way to go and tomorrow’s stages are more technical than today. The long stage tomorrow [Girls High School] has a lot of camber, and it is high speed. This is not an easy rally but we will see what happens tomorrow.”

After a trouble-free day in an M-Sport run Ford Fiesta RS WRC, Russia’s Evgeny Novikov is third. Team-mate Ott Tanak is fifth in a similar car, 7.7s adrift of Solberg in fourth.

Competing in New Zealand for the first time, Thierry Neuville is sixth for the Citroen Junior World Rally Team. The Belgian driver reported problems with his pacenotes led to a spin during stage 3 but a drama-free afternoon saw Neuville finish the day 31s behind Estonia’s Tanak.

MINI WRC Team’s Dani Sordo struggled to find grip after a wrong decision to use hard compound tyres on the opening loop, but a clear afternoon pass saw the driver move up into seventh.

Another driver to fall foul of the wrong tyre choice was America’s Ken Block. Block was disappointed with the choice, and struggled further being out of the Ford Fiesta RS WRC since Rally Mexico. But a change to soft compound tyres for the afternoon loop saw the American win a day-long battle for 10th place with Austria’s Manfred Stohl.

click: wrap


Friday PWRC wrap:

Argentina's Marcos Ligato is leading the FIA Production World Rally Championship category on Brother Rally New Zealand following a faultless performance at the wheel of a Subaru Imprea WRX STI.

Six out of eight stage wins helped Ligato carve a 1m40.1s lead over Sweden’s Ramona Karlsson. Karlsson and co-driver Miriam Walfridsson - the only all-female duo competing in New Zealand - proved their ability behind the wheel of a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X to snatch the remaining two fastest stage times.

“Everything is finally going okay for us,” said Ligato at the end of day one. “We’ve had a lot of problems on the first two rallies this year, and everything finally seems to be going better with the car. Certainly, there is still a long way to go but if we keep going like this then we should be able to keep hold of our lead.”

Despite losing time on the opening loop due to a turbo problem on his Lancer Evolution IX, Valeriy Gorban holds third. With current series leader Benito Guerra not nominating the fifth round of this year’s PWRC as one of scoring events, Gorban will be eager to hold onto a podium position in order to close in on Guerra in the championship standings.

read more: friday wrap


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Discussion Starter #6

SS9: Flying Solberg up to third

Petter Solberg's recovery charge continued on the first stage of day two of Brother Rally New Zealand, as a stage win took the Ford World Rally Team driver past M-Sport's Evgeny Novikov into third place.

Whereas on Friday morning Solberg's peer-defying choice of hard tyres proved very costly, dropping him a minute and a half off the lead as rivals' softs proved far more suited to the conditions, his decision to start Saturday on softs while most used hards definitely paid off on Batley. Solberg admitted that if following stages were more dry, he might struggle, but was happy to have started the day strongly.

"The time is good. In some parts it was wet and damp, some very, very dry. So it will be a very tough loop," said Solberg. "We will see how it goes. We will push on. Our plan is the podium."

Solberg's time placed him 1.9 seconds ahead of erstwhile third-place man Novikov, who said he would not jeopardise his rally trying to fend the works car off.

"The plan was not to fight with Petter," Novikov declared. "Of course we can go a bit faster, because now we are driving at 95 per cent. If we go to 100 per cent we will take lots of risks and we don't want to do this. We don't want to make mistakes. Petter is a quick driver and he knows the roads very, very well."

At the front, Sebastien Loeb was able to stretch his rally lead over Citroen team-mate Mikko Hirvonen to 6.6s. The world champion is using soft tyres on the front and hard on the back of his Citroen DS3 WRC.

"Yesterday it was working well with this tyre choice. It was more a safety choice," said Loeb.

click: ss9


SS10: Loeb stamps his authority

Sebastien Loeb extended his Brother Rally New Zealand lead to 8.5 seconds as he set a faster time than Citroen team-mate Mikko Hirvonen on the Mititai stage.

The world champion admitted that he was having to go flat-out to try and break his team-mate's challenge, with Hirvonen to keep Loeb in his sights and make sure he is still allowed to fight for the win.

"I am pushing hard," said Loeb. "I took a little bit of risks. We hit a bridge a little bit, but everything seems to be OK on the car. We lost a little bit of time with that, but the rest of the stage was good.

"It was a little tricky on the hard tyres and it's slippery. It's very difficult to be on the limit. You lose it sometimes and there are some muddy places, so it's really hard."

Hirvonen lost 1.8s to Loeb on the stage, to his slight confusion.

"I thought the stage was just perfect. I really pushed hard," said the puzzled Finn. "But we are losing some time now. I don't know. Maybe I was just going sideways too much and didn't have perfect lines."

The battle for third remained intense too, as rather than Petter Solberg storming away from Evgeny Novikov after taking the position, this time the M-Sport Ford came back at the works car, and got the gap down to a tiny 0.1s again in their squabble over third.

Stage victory went to the second works Ford of Jari-Matti Latvala, though he is still mired in eighth - over two minutes adrift of his next target.

click: ss10


SS11: Hirvonen puts Loeb back under pressure

Mikko Hirvonen slashed Citroen team-mate Sebastien Loeb's Brother Rally New Zealand lead from 8.8 seconds back to just 1.7s as he flew through the Girls High School stage.

Loeb said he could offer no explanation for the loss of time except that Hirvonen was just driving faster.

"It was nothing special, Mikko was just very fast," said Loeb. "It was very muddy, so I lost quite a lot of time on him. We are nearly equal again.

"Mikko was very fast in a muddy place somewhere and took four seconds out of me in one split."

Hirvonen was thrilled to see how much he had closed in on his team-mate.

"It's right back on now. I really enjoyed it. It was a perfect time," said the Finn. "I'm relieved now I'm here and I'm really enjoying the fight. This is how it should be: really having a good fight and really enjoying it. I'm loving it."

Although he gained on Loeb, Hirvonen wasn't the fastest man on the stage - that honour going to third-placed Petter Solberg as he re-established a 14s cushion over Evgeny Novikov, who is now only 5s in front of M-Sport Ford team-mate Ott Tanak.

Jari-Matti Latvala was third fastest but remains a very lonely eighth.

Armindo Araujo lost a lot of time with a damper issue on his MINI, falling away from Latvala while still staying clear of 10th-placed Ken Block's Monster Ford.

click: ss11


Saturday midday wrap:

Citroen team-mates Sebastien Loeb and Mikko Hirvonen remain locked in battle at the head of the Brother Rally New Zealand field at the halfway point of leg two.

Loeb initially looked like he had the speed to pull away and swiftly put an end to the lead fight, as after only two stages on Saturday morning his advantage had grown to eight seconds.

But it took just one strong stage time from Hirvonen to wipe out almost all of that lead again, as the Finn's pace on the final stage of the morning loop brought him back to within 1.7s of Loeb.

The squabbling Citroens are still nearly a minute and a half clear of the leading Ford, which is now the recovering Petter Solberg in third place. The Norwegian has been firmly on the pace this morning, quickly claiming third from Evgeny Novikov and then edging away a little. Novikov's main task will now be keeping his M-Sport Ford team-mate Ott Tanak behind him.

It has been an uneventful day so far for Thierry Neuville (Qatar Citroen) and Dani Sordo (Prodrive Mini) in sixth and seventh places. Jari-Matti Latvala has been flying in eighth place, yet seems to be too far behind to catch any of the drivers ahead, with a gap of two minutes even to Sordo.

A damper problem cost Armindo Araujo time and saw his Mini start to come under a hint of pressure from the increasingly confident Ken Block's Monster Ford.



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Discussion Starter #7
SS12: Loeb starts rebuilding his advantage

After Mikko Hirvonen's late-morning charge reduced his Citroen team-mate Sebastien Loeb's Brother Rally New Zealand lead to just 1.7 seconds, the eight-time World Rally champion struck back on the first stage of the Saturday afternoon loop and edged out a 4.8s lead once again.

Loeb was quickest of all on the Waipu Gorge stage, while Hirvonen was only sixth - and admitted he had not been at his best.

"He's going to be faster now," Hirvonen admitted even before Loeb came through. "Maybe the lunchbreak was too long for me and I wasn't awake on this one... We'll try again on the next one. I just didn't drive well on this one."

Citroen has insisted that it is not thinking about asking its drivers to hold position yet, and Loeb confirmed that he was now accepting this was - at least for the time being - a flat-out head-to-head intra-team fight for victory.

"We pushed hard but it was dirty and very slippery," said Loeb. "I just drove like I know to do: flat-out. In the previous stages in the morning I didn't want to take these big risks to fight with my team-mate, and then in the end I understood I have to. So this time I drove flat-out and it was better."

M-Sport Ford drivers Ott Tanak and Evgeny Novikov took impressive second and third places on the stage, between Loeb and works Ford duo Petter Solberg and Jari-Matti Latvala, but with times very close on the short stage the overall positions remained unchanged.

click: ss12


SS13: Tanak continues to charge

Ott Tanak continued a run of impressive stage times with the third-quickest mark on the second Saturday afternoon stage of Brother Rally New Zealand.

M-Sport Ford's rising Estonian star was beaten only by the two factory Citroens on Brooks, having been second only to Sebastien Loeb on the preceding Waipu Gorge stage. That burst of pace has brought Tanak to within 8.6 seconds of his team-mate Evgeny Novikov's fourth place, while stretching out a 40s cushion over the pursuing Thierry Neuville's Qatar Citroen.

At the front, the ultra-close contest between the Citroen drivers continued as Loeb pipped Mikko Hirvonen to the fastest time by 0.6s, bringing his overall lead up to 5.4s.

Petter Solberg is still a minute and a half off the lead in third in the leading works Ford.

Further back, a battle is starting to brew for sixth, with Dani Sordo's Prodrive MINI edging closer to Neuville. The gap now stands at 20s.

click: ss13


SS14: Latvala flies

Jari-Matti Latvala offered a reminder of his pace as a hard shower hit stage 14 of Brother Rally New Zealand, the Ford driver claiming only his third stage victory of the weekend.

"Now on this stage I feel positive," said Latvala, who still looks hard-pressed to get above eighth given the time gaps ahead of him.

Rally leader Sebastien Loeb was second quickest to Latvala, stretching his advantage over Citroen team-mate and rival for victory Mikko Hirvonen to 7.9 seconds. But Loeb remained anxious about his position, concerned that Hirvonen had been substantially quicker than him on the first run through the Girls High School stage that is run again to conclude leg two.

"Now we go back to the s**t stage where I lost a lot of time in the morning, so I will have to push hard that," said Loeb. "At the moment I've done a good afternoon - faster than Mikko all the time. Now it's important not to lose everything in the next one, so we have to push.

"It's not easy with the hard tyre in the mud, but it's OK."

Hirvonen is still absolutely relishing his battle with Loeb even as the weather worsens.

"It's very much still on. We'll see," said the Finn. "I think it's very difficult because with this rain it's so slippery in places and it's very, very high speed. We had some moments here and there, but we're still on the road. The best thing you can have is a really big fight."

click: ss14


SS15: Hirvonen keeps Loeb on his toes

Mikko Hirvonen showed he has not given up on his hopes of beating Citroen team-mate Sebastien Loeb to Brother Rally New Zealand victory as he concluded day two with the fastest time on the leg-closing Girls High School stage.

The result brought the gap between the two Citroens down to 6.4 seconds again, but Hirvonen was just pleased to still be pushing Loeb so hard with over half the rally gone - and happy that the team was giving him the freedom to do so even with a one-two looking very likely.

"Here we are two days down and still in a proper fight so I'm having a good time," said Hirvonen.

But despite his excitement over the current battle, the Finn admitted that his challenge may well fade if the rain arrives with a vengeance as expected on Sunday morning, for Loeb has a better selection of tyres for the predicted weather.

"One thing is that I don't have any soft tyres left and I know Sebastien has a few, so it's going to be difficult to fight against him tomorrow," Hirvonen conceded.

Hirvonen was only 0.1s faster than Jari-Matti Latvala on stage 15, as the Ford driver continues to push despite knowing that he needs attrition ahead to make any progress at all from his current eighth place.

click: ss15


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Discussion Starter #8
Saturday wrap:

Eight-time world rally champion Sebastien Loeb has won a day-long battle with Citroen Total World Rally Team's Mikko Hirvonen to finish day two of Brother Rally New Zealand with a slender 6.4s lead over his Finnish team-mate.

Ford World Rally Team driver Petter Solberg started today in fourth but a trouble-free day saw the Norwegian leap-frog fellow Ford Fiesta RS WRC driver Evgeny Novikov to finish third. Solberg now lies 1m26.9s adrift of second-placed Hirvonen.

“We’ve had a good battle with Mikko [Hirvonen] today,” said Frenchman Loeb. “It’s been difficult this afternoon, very slippery and I really don’t like that Girls High School stage. It’s very technical and I lost about eight seconds there this morning. It’s exciting to have a battle with Mikko and tomorrow I will have to push to keep him behind.”

Factory Ford driver Jari-Matti Latvala battled back after yesterday’s off-road excursion to claim two fastest stage times. The driver is eighth going into the rally’s final day.

"Today has been okay - we have been working with the set-up of the car and the last two stages have been a lot better for me,” explained 27-year-old Latvala. “Unfortunately my situation is not so great at the moment, but that’s rallying sometimes and I now need to get things together and continue with a positive outlook."

M-Sport Ford driver Ott Tanak is fifth after a polished performance at the wheel of a Ford Fiesta RS WRC whilst Citroen Junior driver Thierry Neuville won a cat-and-mouse game with MINI WRC Team’s Dani Sordo to hold sixth. The 24-year-old Belgian now leads Sordo by 18.7s going into day three.

“We had a good fight with Dani, and tomorrow I must concentrate on keeping him behind us. Everything has been working well for us today - the car is feeling a lot better now and we have really enjoyed these stages,” said Neuville.

Portugal’s Armindo Araujo holds ninth at the wheel of a MINI John Cooper Works WRC despite losing time throughout the day with damper-related problems.

Rounding off the top ten is Monster World Rally Team’s Ken Block who is positively glowing on his return to the WRC. “These are absolutely my favourite stages anywhere in the world,” said the American Gymkhana star at the end of Stage 15.



Saturday PWRC wrap:

Following day two on Brother Rally New Zealand, Argentina's Marcos Ligato is only seven stages away from securing his first win in the Production Car World Rally Championship since 2001.

Ligato was leading second-placed Ramona Karlsson by over two minutes until the Swede went off the road and her Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X caught fire. Karlsson and co-driver Miriam Walfridsson were unharmed but the all-female pairing were forced to retire from the event.

“Today has been another good day for us,” said Ligato, who now leads the production category by over five minutes. “The car has been perfect, and now all we have to do is keep the car on the road to ensure we make it through tomorrow’s stages. We’ve not had a win in this category for over ten years so it would be brilliant to be take the victory tomorrow.”

India’s Subhan Aksa was on a flier through today’s special stages and secured six out of seven stage wins at the wheel of a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX. After finishing yesterday in sixth place, the driver’s stunning performance has seen Aksa and New Zealand co-driver Jeff Judd catapulted into second place.

Valeriy Gorban was third until problems with the engine and differential on his Mitsubishi cost him over six minutes. The Ukrainian is now fifth going into the final day, 4m33.2s behind Oleksii Kikireshko.

Mexico’s Ricardo Trivino, also driving a Mitsubishi, took advantage of both Gorban and Karlsson’s misfortunes to move into third. After a trouble-free day Ukraine's Kikireshko is fourth, 36.6s adrift of Trivino.

Italian driver Gianluca Linari is lying sixth at the wheel of his Subaru Impreza, whilst Briton Louise Cook is seventh after battling through today’s stages set close to the northern city of Whangerai in a Ford Fiesta ST.



Saturday SWRC wrap:

Hayden Paddon remains on course for his second successive victory in the FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship on his home round of the series, Brother Rally New Zealand.

With a commanding advantage of 36 minutes, Paddon has enjoyed a technically trouble-free day in the Northland stages, but he admitted he hasn’t been able to savour his favourite roads as much as he would have liked.

“We need to work on the car a little bit,” said Paddon. “I can’t get the traction out of the corners, the car’s just washing out. I know these stages really well and there have been corners we’ve been flat-out through before, but I couldn’t do that with this car. We’ve been trying a few things, but it just hasn’t been quite right.”

Paddon added that his big lead would allow him to make more suspension changes to the car tomorrow in search of the perfect set-up.

Proton driver P-G Andersson holds second place, despite retiring his Satria-Neo S2000 on the final stage of the day. Andersson was back in the groove on the roads north of Auckland today, until he was caught out in the second run through the Girls High School test.

“The car has been great,” said Andersson. “I have the best feeling with it all season, it is pulling out of the corners and no understeer - the balance is very, very nice. On the final stage today, we were going through a hairpin right with the steering on full lock, when we caught a big rock with the front wheel. That rock tore the wheel off and sent us across the road into a ditch. We can still make some points tomorrow.”

The Swede will return for the final day still in second place tomorrow, chasing more valuable points in the SWRC race. Poland’s Maciek Oleksowicz is third with Andersson’s fellow Proton driver, Scotland’s Alister McRae fourth and Yazeed Al Rajhi from Saudi Arabia in fifth place.



Premium Member
23,369 Posts
Discussion Starter #9
in other news:

Swedish all-female team Ramona Karlsson and Miriam Walfridsson had come to Rally New Zealand hoping to burn up the roads.

But not like happened today.

A sensor in the car alerted rescue crews of the massive fire, and both drivers were unhurt. But there was no saving their Evo X.

Read more: No one hurt in Rally fire - Story - 3 Sport - 3 News

...glad they are both ok :D

Premium Member
23,369 Posts
Discussion Starter #10

SS16: Neuville claims stage win

Citroen Junior World Rally Team driver Thierry Neuville has claimed his first stage victory on Brother Rally New Zealand.

Heavy rain was the order of the day, and conditions worsened the further down the running order. Neuville’s stage win now sees the sixth-placed Belgian extend his lead over MINI’s Dani Sordo by 21.2s.

“That was very muddy in some places,” explained Neuville, who opted to use a mix of two hard and two soft compound Michelin tyres on his Citroen DS3 WRC. “It doesn’t help when there is a seven minute delay on the stage as it mad the first section difficult with the tyres. But it went surprisingly well, there were a couple of slippery places but it was okay.”

M-Sport Ford’s Ott Tanak was second quickest through stage 16, 0.6s behind pace-setter Neuville.

Ford’s Jari-Matti Latvala was the fastest of the factory drivers and completed 1.4s faster than his Ford Fiesta RS WRC team-mate Petter Solberg. Citroen’s Sebastien Loeb was fifth fastest with a time of 4m16.5s. At the end of SS16, Loeb has extended his lead over his Citroen team-mate Mikko Hirvonen at the top of the overall leaderboard to 10.5s.

In the Super 2000 World Rally Championship, Hayden Paddon reported he has no rear suspension on his Skoda Fabia S2000.

click: ss16


SS17: Neuville continues his charge

Thierry Neuville continues to fly through the third day of Brother Rally New Zealand with the Belgian driver securing his second consecutive stage win.

Meanwhile, Frenchman Sebastien Loeb still leads Citroen Total World Rally Team’s Mikko Hirvonen in the overall leaderboard and has now extended his lead over his Finnish team-mate by 15.8s.

“We were just trying to drive as fast as we could,” said 24-year-old Neuville who is currently sixth. “We had a clear run but it was becoming more slippery towards the end of the stage. But we just kept pushing. Everything is feeling good for us this morning.”

M-Sport Ford driver Evgeny Novikov was second quickest through stage 17 in a Ford Fiesta RS WRC, completing the 17.94-kilometre test 4.7s adrift of pace-setter Neuville. Dani Sordo was third fastest at the wheel of his MINI John Cooper Works WRC.

Ford’s Jari-Matti Latvala was the quickest factory driver to complete stage 17, 0.4s faster than Loeb who was fifth. Latvala remains eighth in the overall leaderboard.

In the Super 2000 World Rally Championship, Hayden Paddon is continuing to nurse his Skoda Fabia S2000 through the morning’s stages. “We have broken rear suspension which is very disappointing as we wanted to put on a good show for our fans,” said the Kiwi.

click: ss17


SS18: Sordo wins super special

MINI WRC Team’s Dani Sordo has claimed the fastest stage time on the Auckland Domain super special, stage 18 of Brother Rally New Zealand.

The Spaniard finished the 2.05-kilometre speed test 1.4s faster than M-Sport Ford driver Evgeny Novikov who posted the second fastest time. Ford World Rally Team’s Petter Solberg was third quickest, 1.8s adrift of pace-setter Sordo.

At the top of the leaderboard, Citroen’s Sebastien Loeb has extended his lead over team-mate Mikko Hirvonen to 17.4s. Elsewhere, Neuville is now only 16.3s from snatching fifth place from Ford Fiesta RS WRC driver Ott Tanak.

Ford’s Petter Solberg remains third, 1m32.6s behind rally leader Loeb.

The WRC crews will now return to Auckland Harbour for the midday service before returning north of the rally base to contest the event’s closing four stages.

click: ss18


Sunday midday wrap:

Citroen’s Sebastien Loeb has extended his lead over fellow Citroen DS3 WRC driver Mikko Hirvonen following a wet morning on the final day of Brother Rally New Zealand.

But the real credit goes to Belgium’s Thierry Neuville who was on a flier this morning, posting two fastest stage times and successfully closing the gap on M-Sport Ford driver Ott Tanak who is desperately clinging onto fifth place. Neuville is now only 16.3s behind Estonia’s Tanak.

Ford World Rally Team’s Petter Solberg had a trouble-free morning to hold third at the wheel of a Ford Fiesta RS WRC.

“I did not want to take any risks,” explained the Norwegian driver at the end of stage 18. “The stages were very slippery and it would be easy to go off the road. I need the points this weekend, Mikko [Hirvonen] and Seb [Loeb] are too far ahead to catch in such little stage distance.”

Russia's Evgeny Novikov is fourth in a Ford Fiesta RS WRC and MINI WRC Team’s Dani Sordo holds seventh after taking the spoils on the morning’s super special stage. Ford’s leading factory driver Jari-Matti Latvala is eighth, 1m 54.9s behind Sordo.

Portugal’s Armindo Araujo holds ninth with America’s Ken Block rounding off the top ten.

In the Super 2000 World Rally Championship, local driver Hayden Paddon continues to lead Sweden’s PG Andersson despite suffering time loss due to a broken rear suspension on his Skoda Fabia S2000.

Marcos Ligato continues to lead the Production World Rally Championship and remains on track for his first win in the support category since 2001.



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Discussion Starter #11
SS19: Another stage win for Sordo

MINI WRC Team’s Dani Sordo has won the second run round the Auckland Domain super special on the closing day of Brother Rally New Zealand.

Sordo finished the asphalt stage with a time of 1m41.7s, 2.7s faster than rally leader Sebastien Loeb who was second quickest at the wheel of a Citroen DS3 WRC. Austrian rally legend Manfred Stohl was third fastest, completing the sealed surface stage with a time of 1m44.7s

Thierry Neuville was fourth fastest, with M-Sport Ford driver Ott Tanak completing 0.1s adrift of the Belgian youngster.

At the top of the leaderboard, Frenchman Loeb continues to lead Citroen team-mate Mikko Hirvonen by 20.9s. Ford World Rally Team’s Petter Solberg holds third.

click: ss19


SS20: Drama as Tanak rolls

Thierry Neuville has claimed his third stage win of the day, finishing 1.8s ahead of fellow Citroen DS3 WRC driver Sebastien Loeb.

Elsewhere, Ott Tanak rolled his Ford Fiesta RS WRC six kilometres into the start of the stage. Both Tanak and co-driver are Kuldar Sikk are unharmed, but the pair have been forced to retire allowing Belgium’s Thierry Neuville to move into fifth.

“The road is very fast,” explained Russia’s Novikov who holds fourth place. “Even the smallest mistake can cause the car to roll in these sort of conditions. For the moment I will not push, fourth place is a very good result. Today’s conditions have been very difficult but our tyre choice has worked very well so I am pleased.”

Ford World Rally Team drivers Jari-Matti Latvala and Petter Solberg finished stage 20 third and fourth respectively. Citroen Total World Rally Team driver Mikko Hirvonen completed with a time of 10m28.4s, 2.5s adrift of Solberg.

In the Super 2000 World Rally Championship, local driver Hayden Paddon stopped during the stage to change a puncture but the Kiwi continues to lead the support category going into the rally’s closing two stages.

click: ss20


SS21: Stage win for Latvala

Ford World Rally Team’s Jari-Matti Latvala has claimed a stage victory on the penultimate stage of Brother Rally New Zealand.

The Finn completed the stage with a time of 3m58.6s, 2.1s faster than fellow Ford Fiesta RS WRC driver Petter Solberg. MINI WRC Team’s Dani Sordo was third quickest, 2.5s behind pace-setter Latvala.

Nothing changes at the top of the leaderboard with Citroen Total World Rally Team’s Sebastien Loeb leading team-mate Mikko Hirvonen by 25.1s.

click: ss21


SS22: Latvala tops Power Stage

Ford World Rally Team’s Jari-Matti Latvala has ended Brother Rally New Zealand on a high after bagging a maximum three points on the event’s closing Power Stage.

Fellow Ford Fiesta RS WRC driver Petter Solberg was second quickest through the Power Stage and claims two points. Rally winner Sebastien Loeb was third fastest and takes the final point. MINI WRC Team’s Dani Sordo and Citroen Junior’s Thierry Neuville finished the 7.30-kilometre fourth and fifth respectively.

Loeb’s clear run through the rally’s closing stage has awarded the Frenchman with his fifth win of the season. The Citroen number one reached the finish line 29.6s ahead of team-mate Mikko Hirvonen who finished runner-up.

click: ss22


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Discussion Starter #12
Sunday wrap:

Sebastien Loeb has extended the lead over his Citroen team-mate Mikko Hirvonen in the FIA World Rally Championship drivers' standings following his win on this weekend's Brother Rally New Zealand.

Finland’s Hirvonen drove a faultless rally at the wheel of a Citroen DS3 WRC to help the Citroen Total World Rally Team claim their third one-two result in a row. Loeb tops the leaderboard with a total of 145 points, 38 points ahead of second-placed Hirvonen.

“It’s been a long weekend and my driving has not been perfect,” admitted eight-time world rally champion Loeb. “We made a few mistakes in the closing Power Stage when we were pushing too hard but the most important thing is that we have won. It was an exciting battle with Mikko [Hirvonen] yesterday but it’s good to leave here with a victory.”

Ford World Rally Team’s Petter Solberg has claimed the final step of the podium with his third place finish in a Ford Fiesta RS WRC. The Norwegian driver lost time due to a wrong tyre choice on the opening day but battled back to finish the event 1m36.4s behind rally winner Loeb.

“I am very happy to have made it through the rally, especially after what happened on the first day,” said Norway’s Solberg at the finish. “We came here to win but a third place is still good so we must be happy with that. The team and the car is fantastic, but we just need to keep going and hopefully one day soon a win will follow.”

Factory Ford driver Jari-Matti Latvala had a bitter-sweet finish after claiming maximum points on the event’s closing Power Stage. The Finnish driver was knocked out of winning contention following an off-road excursion on day one but battled back to finish seventh overall.

Russian privateer Evgeny Novikov drove a mature rally in his M-Sport Ford-run Fiesta RS WRC to finish fourth, 37.2s behind Solberg. “It’s been a good weekend for us and our tyre choice has worked well,” said an elated Novikov.

read more:


Sunday PWRC wrap:

Marcos Ligato has claimed his first win in the Production Car World Rally Championship at the wheel of a Subaru Impreza WRX STI for the first time since 2001.

The Argentine drove a near-perfect rally from start to finish on Brother Rally New Zealand and carved out a winning advantage of 5m50.8s over second-placed Subhan Aksa from Indonesia.

“It feels incredible to have won in New Zealand,” said Ligato. “We had a big advantage from the beginning so we didn’t have too much pressure after day one. The roads were very muddy and slippery so keeping the car on the road was very difficult. I would like to thank my team, my family and everybody who has helped us over the weekend. Now we want to win the last few events and become champions!”

Aksa drove a mature rally to claim his second consecutive PWRC podium finish in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX. The driver claimed a string of stage wins yesterday but adopted a cautious driving approach today in order to finish second and leave the fifth round of the support category with 18 championship points.

Claiming the third step of the podium in PWRC was Mexico’s Ricardo Trivino in a Impreza. “I am just glad to have finished this rally, it’s very enjoyable to drive here but it’s also a long and difficult rally. You need to be flat out a lot of the time,” commented Trivino.



Next: Round 8 WRC Finland 02 - 04 Aug 12

Sisu is a Finnish word that loosely translates into English as ‘having guts’. On the flat-out, tree-lined straights, endless yumps and blind crests of Neste Oil Rally Finland, drivers will need plenty of ‘sisu’ if they are to stand a chance of winning one of the World Rally Championship’s most famous events.

Known affectionately as the Finnish Grand Prix, the rally turns the student city of Jyvaskyla into a motorsport Mecca on the first weekend of August as fans converge in their tens of thousands to savour the dramatic action on the compacted gravel stages and lap up the party atmosphere.

Few non-Finns have triumphed on the event due to the specialist nature of the stages with their endless series of twists, corners and jumps. Marcus Gronholm, a seven-time Neste Oil Rally Finland winner, famously said: “You need courage but the pacenotes have to be perfect because they tell you where to place the car on the road before taking off flat-out over a blind crest. You have to have maximum trust and faith in your co-driver.”

Official Website:

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