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17 April 2004 - 20:45
Excellent performance by Petter Solberg
World Rally Championship: New Zealand
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Subaru World Rally Team - Leg 1 [16/04/04 - 11:57]

After completing nine of 23 stages, Petter Solberg holds the overnight lead of Rally New Zealand.

On the first leg of the competition Solberg put in an excellent performance at the wheel of his Subaru Impreza WRC2004 and collected four stage wins. On his fourth event with the Subaru team, Mikko Hirvonen gained more vital experience of the event and the Impreza WRC2004. He holds overnight 8th place, and is on target to collect more championship points on Sunday.

Petter Solberg
"I'm happy, we've had no major problems at all today. The new tyres from Pirelli have been very good, perhaps they were a little too soft on the long section (SS7), but I'm very happy with the general set up. We've had a good battle with Harri today, but Leg one is just a warm up. We'll see what happens tomorrow, that's when the real rally starts."

Mikko Hirvonen
"It's been a very encouraging day. I'm happier with what I've achieved today than my performance on the first day in Mexico. Looking at the state of my tyres after the stages, my driving is less aggressive now and is more effective. I've still got some way to go before I have a rhythm that I'm totally happy with on these stages, but I'm encouraged and looking forward to tomorrow."

David Lapworth, Team Principal
"We came here looking for a benchmark of the performance of our new car against the new Citroen, Ford and Peugeot and overall we're very satisfied with the result of the first day. Petter came here hungry for a win and, at this point, is perfectly poised to achieve this. Mikko's clear objective is to develop his driving style, learn more about the event and gradually build his pace. He's right on plan. It's far too early to begin speculating about final results at this stage, but I'm happy that we've made such a good start."
 
Press release
Subaru World Rally Team

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Still very open!
WRC New Zealand - Leg 2 [17/04/04 - 09:38]

Petter Solberg didn't dominate the second leg of Rally New Zealand like he did in Mexico. However, the World Champion controlled the situation and kept his first place. The Norwegian has a lead of nearly 20 seconds on his closest rival, which might not be enough to be take it easy tomorrow but at least Solberg can feel confident for Sunday. The battle remains very open...

Smart race management by Solberg
Petter Solberg was the leader on Friday evening but his advantage over the others was slim. The Subaru driver had to keep a fast rhythm without making any mistake. That's exactly what he did today, which enables him to stay in the lead.

Solberg was consistent all day and finished the leg with a stage victory. In the previous stages, Petter finished regularly in the top 3, letting his rivals take the fastest stage times while he stayed close behind them.

Mikko Hirvonen was more discreet than his teammate, finishing the day in eighth place, nearly three minutes behind Solberg.

Gronholm more aggressive
Marcus Gronholm took four stage victories today. The Finn achieved great results and moved up to second position, around 20 seconds behind Solberg. If Marcus is not able to catch Solberg tomorrow, he might have some regrets knowing that he lost more than half a minute when he rolled over his car yesterday.

With only a small 20-second deficit, Marcus knows that he has a good chance of winning for the fourth time in New Zealand. With his main championship rivals behind him, scoring as many points as possible will be very important but the Finn will also need to take some risks to stay in front of Markko Martin, who is only 4 seconds behind him.

Harri Rovanpera made a few mistakes today, notably in his tyre choices. The result is rather costly: the Finn was in second place yesterday evening, only 4 seconds behind the leader and now Harri is in fourth position, more than 45 seconds away from Solberg.

Martin in a good position
Markko Martin is third at the end of leg 2. The Estonian is leading the championship - tied with Loeb - so a top 3 result or better would give him a substantial lead over his rivals.

Francois Duval is once again involved in a battle with Carlos Sainz. Unfortunately for Francois, the duel is turning to Carlos' advantage mostly because of an incident that cannot be blamed on Duval. In stage 12, Francois was blocked behind the Focus of Warmbold, who didn't notice his presence in the thick cloud of dust made by his car.

The new Xsara needs more fine-tuning
We are used to see the Citroen drivers getting better results than what we have seen so far in New Zealand. Sebastien Loeb was not outpaced but had some difficulty to match the rhythm of the leaders. Despite constant improvements towards the end of the day, the Frenchman is more than a minute behind at the end of leg 2.

Carlos Sainz is sixth, more than a minute behind his teammate. Nothing dramatic but it seems that the newly homologated Xsara needs more fine-tuning until their drivers can battle for the lead.

Hugo GIGUERE
CAPSIS International


 

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Next:
ERC: Rally Matador Tatry – 00 0000 - 00:00
Solberg wins a suspenseful race – 19 April 2004 - 15:50
ERC: Rally de Canarias - Trofeo el Cortes Ingles – 20 April 2004 - 09:31
Rallye de Wallonie - The first victory for Perneel – 05 May 2004 - 09:45
ERC: Rally Costa Smeralda, Italy – 08 May 2004 - 09:52

Previous:
Peterhansel takes emphatic win in rally of Tunisia – 12 April 2004 - 20:41
Peterhansel and Despres lead in cross-country rally Tunisia – 09 April 2004 - 20:40
European success for Basso – 05 April 2004 - 20:37
To conquer the dunes... – 03 April 2004 - 16:30
Winter Rally - Lebanon – 03 April 2004 - 16:28

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