Solberg Fastest On Day Two In New Zealand
Ford World Rally Team drivers Petter Solberg and Chris Patterson were fastest over today’s second leg of Brother Rally New Zealand as they climbed to third place. They won two speed tests this morning in a Ford Fiesta RS World Rally Car, and maintained a strong pace throughout the afternoon to complete the day 6.0sec faster than their closest rivals.
Teammates Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila won one special stage this morning as Ford completed a clean sweep of fastest times in the loop. The Finns climbed to eighth in the process after yesterday’s time loss and remained there as they tested set-up options this afternoon, adding another stage win.
This seventh round of the FIA World Rally Championship journeyed north of Auckland for seven fast and flowing gravel stages covering 143.01km in the Whangarei and Kaipara districts of North Island. Clear and sunny conditions this morning ensured the roads were surprisingly dry, but an afternoon rain shower provided a damper surface in sections of the penultimate test.
Solberg opted for Michelin’s soft compound tyres on his Fiesta RS World Rally Car this morning and despite the dry surface, they worked well in the cool temperatures. The 37-year-old Norwegian won both the first and last tests of the loop to move from fourth to third before competitors enjoyed the respite of a 15-minute service in Whangarei itself.
With harder compound rubber fitted to his Fiesta RS WRC this afternoon, Solberg maintained a strong pace to return to Auckland having stretched his advantage over fourth-placed Evgeny Novikov to 29.2sec.
“We set good stage times throughout the day without any crazy attacking,” said Solberg. “I simply kept a steady pace to stay in touch with those in front, because there was nothing to win and plenty to lose. The roads were more slippery and muddy than we expected this afternoon, and drier than we anticipated this morning.
“We have six good soft tyres left for tomorrow, but it we are to have any chance at all of catching those in front then we need proper rain. We need to be lucky so perhaps I should make a rain dance tonight! We’ll look at the situation after the opening stage but we’re not going to take the level of risk that we did at the last round in Greece, because a podium is important for Ford,” he added.
Latvala opted for hard rubber this morning and won the middle stage of the opening loop as he moved from ninth to eighth. With no realistic chance of climbing further on pace alone, the 27-year-old was happy to experiment with his car’s set-up and was fastest through the penultimate test.
“It’s difficult to see how I can move higher with big time gaps to those ahead,” said Latvala. “I wasn’t fighting with anyone, but concentrating more on the car’s set-up. Yesterday I didn’t have a perfect feeling with the car but we made a few set-up changes overnight and some more today. The feeling is coming back and I’m happy with the improvements.”
Ford World Rally Team director Malcolm Wilson said both Solberg and Latvala enjoyed better days today. “Looking at just how close the times were, there could have been a good battle for the lead if Petter and Jari-Matti hadn’t lost time yesterday. Each won two stages and Jari-Matti tested revised differential settings given that he had no real prospect of catching anyone ahead.
“Tomorrow’s forecast is for heavy rain and so the result is still not decided. Rain would suit Petter as he still has a set of good condition soft tyres to use,” he said.
News from other Ford teams
M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s Evgeny Novikov / Denis Giraudet slipped behind Solberg to hold fourth in their Fiesta RS WRC, 21.3sec ahead of team-mates Ott Tänak / Kuldar Sikk. The Estonians survived a brush with a bank in stage 13 and a spin on the next test. Monster World Rally Team’s Ken Block / Alex Gelsomino remain 10th, and are now more than 70sec ahead of Brazil World Rally Team’s Manfred Stohl / Ilka Minor. Jari Ketomaa / Mika Stenberg are 13th.
The final leg is based just north of Auckland and is the shortest of the weekend. Drivers restart at 06.40 and face two loops of stages, including two passes over the asphalt roads at the city’s War Memorial Museum. The final Power Stage test offers bonus points to the fastest three drivers. The finish is on the city’s waterfront at 15.30 after seven stages covering 61.33km.
Leaderboard after Day 2
1. S Loeb/D Elena FRA Citroen DS3 3hr 27min 51.9sec
2. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen FIN Citroen DS3 3hr 27min 58.3sec
3. P Solberg/C Patterson NOR Ford Fiesta RS 3hr 29min 25.2sec
4. E Novikov/D Giraudet RUS Ford Fiesta RS 3hr 29min 54.4sec
5. O Tänak/K Sikk EST Ford Fiesta RS 3hr 30min 15.7sec
6. T Neuville/N Gilsoul BEL Citroen DS3 3hr 30min 39.1sec
7. D Sordo/C Del Barrio ESP Mini John Cooper 3hr 30min 57.8sec
8. J-M Latvala/M Anttila FIN Ford Fiesta RS 3hr 32min 49.9sec
9. A Araujo/M Ramalho PRT Mini John Cooper 3hr 36min 13.0sec
10 K Block/A Gelsomino USA Ford Fiesta RS 3hr 36min 59.5sec
Stage 9: 1. Solberg 9min 45.3sec; 2. Loeb + 4.3; 3. Hirvonen + 7.0; 4. Tänak + 9.0; 5. Novikov + 9.6; 6. Sordo + 10.0; 7. Latvala + 10.5.
Overall: 1. Loeb 2hr 17min 24.6sec; 2. Hirvonen + 6.7; 3. Solberg + 1:35.0; 4. Novikov + 1:36.3; 5. Tänak + 1:51.7; 6. Neuville + 2:25.1; 8. Latvala + 5:02.3.
Stage 10: 1. Latvala 12min 14.4sec; 2= Novikov, Neuville + 0.7; 4. Loeb + 1.1; 5. Tänak + 1.3; 6. Solberg + 1.9.
Overall: 1. Loeb 2hr 29min 40.1sec; 2. Hirvonen + 8.5; 3. Solberg + 1:35.8; 4. Novikov + 1:35.9; 5. Tänak + 1:51.9; 6. Neuville + 2:24.7; 8. Latvala + 5:01.2.
Stage 11: 1. Solberg 15min 34.4sec; 2. Hirvonen + 3.0; 3. Latvala + 4.0; 4. Neuville + 7.5; 5= Loeb, Tänak, Sordo + 9.8.
Overall: 1. Loeb 2hr 45min 24.5sec; 2. Hirvonen + 1.7; 3. Solberg + 1:26.0; 4. Novikov + 1:40.1; 5. Tänak + 1:51.9; 6. Neuville + 2:22.4; 8. Latvala + 4:55.4.
Stage 12: 1. Loeb 6min 34.2sec; 2. Tänak + 0.8; 3. Novikov + 0.9; 4. Solberg + 1.5; 5. Latvala + 2.2; 6. Hirvonen + 3.1.
Overall: 1. Loeb 2hr 51min 58.7sec; 2. Hirvonen + 4.8; 3. Solberg + 1:27.5; 4. Novikov + 1:41.0; 5. Tänak + 1:52.7; 6. Neuville + 2:26.1; 8. Latvala + 4:57.6.
Stage 13: 1. Loeb 8min 00.7sec; 2. Hirvonen + 0.6; 3. Tänak + 2.1; 4. Solberg + 2.2; 5. Latvala + 3.0; 6. Sordo + 3.7.
Overall: 1. Loeb 2hr 59min 59.4sec; 2. Hirvonen + 5.4; 3. Solberg + 1:29.7; 4. Novikov + 1:46.2; 5. Tänak + 1:54.8; 6. Neuville + 2:35.4; 8. Latvala + 5:00.6.
Stage 14: 1. Latvala 12min 13.6sec; 2. Loeb + 1.2; 3= Hirvonen, Novikov + 3.7; 5. Solberg + 5.2; 6. Sordo + 5.7.
Overall: 1. Loeb 3hr 12min 14.2sec; 2. Hirvonen + 7.9; 3. Solberg + 1:33.7; 4. Novikov + 1:48.7; 5. Tänak + 2:15.9; 6. Neuville + 2:42.3; 8. Latvala + 4:59.4.
Stage 15: 1. Hirvonen 15min 36.2sec; 2. Latvala + 0.1; 3. Solberg + 1.1; 4. Loeb + 1.5; 5. Neuville + 6.4;6. Sordo + 6.6.
Overall: 1. Loeb 3hr 27min 51.9sec; 2. Hirvonen + 6.4; 3. Solberg + 1:33.3; 4. Novikov + 2:02.5; 5. Tänak + 2:23.8; 6. Neuville + 2:47.2; 8. Latvala + 4:58.0.