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19 April 2004 - 15:50
Solberg wins a suspenseful race
WRC New Zealand
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Solberg won the battle!
New Zealand : Finish - Summary [18/04/04 - 06:56]

Petter Solberg's win in New Zealand, completed by a podium finish for Marcus Gronholm and Markko Martin, provide a very interesting situation in the Drivers' Championship, with the top four drivers separated by only three points.

However, the highlight of the rally will definitely be the exciting battle for the lead, that continued until the very last kilometre of the final stage. Petter Solberg won the fight despite the constant attacks of Marcus Gronholm and Markko Martin.

Solberg's first win of the season
Petter Solberg's impressive performance in Mexico showed the performance of the new Impreza WRC04. However in New Zealand most of the other teams also replied with revised and improved versions of their cars and the Norwegian had to fight hard to win this weekend.

Petter lead most of the event but was never able to distance his rivals. As a matter of fact, a slight mistake by the Subaru driver was enough to give the lead back to Gronholm with only a few stages left until the finish. But the Peugeot driver made a mistake as well in the following stage, helping Solberg to move back in the lead.

The Subaru driver takes his sixth WRC win and moves to fourth place in the championship, three points behind Markko Martin. Subaru gets closer to the leading team in the Constructors' Championship, especially that Hirvonen brings an additional two points on top of Solberg's result.

Seven stage wins... and two mistakes for Gronholm
The 307 WRC was very competitive this weekend and both Marcus Gronholm and Harri Rovanpera were able to use its full potential. Gronholm always performs well in New Zealand and this time was no exception. The Finn takes seven stage victories - just as many as Solberg - but also makes two mistakes that probably cost him the win.

In the first leg, Marcus rolled over his car and lost around 30 seconds in the incident. Then on Sunday, he spun and lost the lead, just a few stages from the finish.

Despite these shortcomings, Gronholm earns valuable points and remains in third place in the championship.

Peugeot made a good choice by nominating Harri Rovanpera to be Gronholm's teammate. The Finn was consistent all weekend and even lead the event for a stage. Harri takes a well-deserved fifth position.

Martin remains the championship leader
The pressure on Markko Martin in the final stage must have been enormous. The Estonian took advantage of Gronholm's mistake to find himself tied for second position with the Peugeot driver with only one stage to go.

Markko was left with two choices: he could try to beat Gronholm in a final attack or go for a more conservative approach to secure the points associated with a third place finish, which was good enough to maintain him in the championship lead. It seems that Markko decided take the second option, bringing valuable points to his credit.

The new Focus proved to be a competitive car that should help Martin in his quest to defend his position in the Drivers' Championship.

Francois Duval also achieved excellent stage times, including a win in one of the Super Special events. Unfortunately the young Belgian driver went off the road in the final leg, losing more than 18 minutes in the process.

Modest result for the new Xsara
Citron introduced a new Xsara in New Zealand and the expectations were very high, since the previous model was so competitive in the first three rallies of the season.

It seems that the new Xsara will require a bit more development time. Loeb was able to accomplish good results but his overall performance was not as good as it was previously this season.

At least Seb finishes in fourth position and doesn't lose too much in the championship battle. The Frenchman is now in second place, only one point behind Martin. A very positive result despite a relatively frustrating performance this weekend.

Same situation for Carlos Sainz. The Spaniard was very discreet this weekend but at least he scores important points for Citron.

A shockingly short race for Mitsubishi
Mitsubishi's transitional season is difficult. The Lancer is not in a position to compete head to head with the other cars and the team will have a lot of work to catch up the other teams.

The first step will be to have a more reliable package, to avoid such a disappointing situation as the retirement of both cars in the opening Super Special stages on Thursday evening because of an electrical problem.

Hugo GIGUERE
CAPSIS International

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Manfred Stohl triumphs in New Zealand
New Zealand : OMV World Rally Team / PCWRC - Finish [18/04/04 - 17:40]

The final day of the Propecia New Zealand rally couldn't have been more exciting. Holding third place in the P-WRC-ranking, Manfred Stohl (Aut) entered the third stage 30 seconds behind the leader. After over 105 special stage- kilometres later he returned to Auckland as triumphant winner.

In the end, the OMV driver had a lead of almost 1:20 minutes on Marcos Ligato (RA/Subaru). Jani Paasonen (Fin) completed the great success of the OMV World Rally Team by driving like the devil and thereby securing fourth rank. This means that he now holds second place in the P-WRC intermediate ranking. Three runs into the Production-World-Championship, the OMV World Rally Team has already scored two victories Paasonen in Sweden and now Stohl in New Zealand.

Staking everything on one chance
Manfred Stohl was definitely not content with third place. Therefore he stepped hard on the pedal right from the beginning successfully so. After only two of six special stages the OMV Team Manfred Stohl and Ilka Minor took the lead. At first they could also fend off the attacks of the increasingly faster Subaru- driver Toshi Arai (Jap).

On the third special stage before the service Arai started to close in. But on special stages 4 and 5 the 31-year-old Viennese fought back and secured the victory. This was admittedly made easier by the fact that Arai's rear drive shaft broke down on the last stage, making it also possible for Paasonen to overtake him. Stohl: "I didn't only want to win, I had to. Now I'm back where I wanted to be in the World Championship. Due to Sola's retirement, my Championship chances are still alive. And I really hope that I'll be spared technical problems for the rest of the season so I can really enjoy the rallies."

Talking about the World Championship: After three of six runs, the OMV driver has now scored 10 points and lies six points behind Sola (Spa/Mitsubishi) and five points behind Arai and his OMV World Rally Team-colleague Jani Paasonen.

Moving up to second place in the P-WRC
On Sunday Jani Paasonen showed that he is still to be reckoned with. Together with Co-driver Sirkka Rautiainen the Finnish OMV driver scored one top time after the other and was rewarded with fourth place in the end. Thereby he also moved up to second place in the P-WRC intermediate ranking. Paasonen: "All in all I had a good feeling throughout the rally. Naturally, we couldn't give our all in the beginning, since we needed to score. But on the final day we managed to turn the good vibrations into top speed. Now I'm really looking forward to Argentina."

During the finish only the tyres posed a minor problem therefore Paasonen couldn't attack fully on the last special stage and had to let Alistair McRae go ahead.

A score to be settled
For Sebastin Vollak and Co-driver Michael Klbach, unfortunately, the New Zealand-adventure was over on the second day. Even though he finished the last special stage of the day, on the stage to the service his car stalled and the engine couldn't be restarted. Reason: a faulty fuel pipe. Before the mishap, the OMV Rookie had achieved some excellent special-stage-times and had ranked 14th. Vollak: "It's no use crying over spilt milk. We didn't have a good week. But maybe one has to learn the hard way. All I hope for is that I might get another chance to compete in New Zealand: this score has to be settled."

For OMV World Rally Team Manager Jrgen Bertl the rally was, of course, a satisfying experience. He had always believed in Stohl's victory, even though he got a bit nervous in the end. The German found just one minor point of criticism with Paasonen: "Too bad, Jani only really got into gear on the final day. In the end all that was missing were a few seconds on Alistair McRae and the podium."

Press release
OMV World Rally Team

---

The story of the race
New Zealand : the highlights [18/04/04 - 07:12]

The fourth round of the World Rally Championship was held this weekend in New Zealand. Here are the major highlights of the 34th edition of the Rally New Zealand.

LEG 1

SS 1 : MANUKAU SUPER SPECIAL 1 - 2.10 km

Markko Martin takes the first stage victory for the new Ford Focus WRC2004.

SS 2 : MANUKAU SUPER SPECIAL 2 - 2.10 km

Petter Solberg takes the lead by getting the fastest stage time.

Both Mitsubishi Lancer of Gilles Panizzi and Kristian Sohlberg retire because of electrical problems.

SS 3 : WAIRERE 1- 18.90 km

Another fastest stage time for Petter Solberg.

Jari Viita goes off the road but is able to continue.

SS 4 : CASSIDY - 15.78 km

Petter Solberg increases his lead by taking another stage victory.

Henning Solberg goes off the road and retires.

SS 5 : BULL - 31.73 km

Marcus Gronholm takes the lead after finishing first in the stage.

Jari Viita retires after experiencing engine problems with his Ford.

Gianluigi Galli (Group N Mitsubishi) goes off the road and retires.

SS 6 : WAIRERE 1- 18.90 km

Fastest stage time for Harri Rovanpera.

Petter Solberg is back in the lead.

Marcus Gronholm rolls over his 307 and loses around 40 seconds.

SS 7 : POSSUM - 48.21 km

Harri Rovanpera wins the stage and takes the lead, one second ahead of Petter Solberg.

SS 8 : MANUKAU SUPER SPECIAL 3 - 2.10 km

Fastest stage time for Petter Solberg, who moves back to first place.

SS 9 : MANUKAU SUPER SPECIAL 4 - 2.10 km

Fastest stage time for Franois Duval.

Petter Solberg finishes the first day in the lead, in front of the Peugeot drivers Rovanpera & Gronholm.

LEG 2

SS 10 : PARAHI 1 - 25.18 km

Fastest stage time for Marcus Gronholm.

SS 11 : BATLEY 1 - 16.97 km

Fastest stage time for Marcus Gronholm.

SS 12 : WAIPU GORGE 1 - 11.24 km

Stage victory for Markko Martin, who climbs up to third place.

Marcus Gronholm stalls his car at the start and loses a few seconds.

Antony Warmbold loses around 8 minutes with a mechanical problem.

Franois Duval loses time when he is blocked behind Warmbold's Focus.

SS 13 : BROOKS 1 - 16.03 km

Markko Martin moves up to second position after taking another stage win.

Mark Higgins goes off the road and his Subaru catches on fire, blocking the stage.

SS 14 : PARAHI 2 - 25.18 km

Fastest stage time for Marcus Gronholm.

SS 15 : BATLEY 2 - 16.97 km

Marcus Gronholm takes another stage victory.

SS 16 : WAIPU GORGE 2 - 11.24 km

Sebastien Loeb wins his first stage victory of the race.

SS 17 : BROOKS 2 - 16.03 km

Petter Solberg concludes the day with a stage win.

LEG 3

SS 18 : TE HUTEWAI 1 - 11.15 km

Fastest stage time for Marcus Gronholm.

SS 19 : TE PAPATAU 1 - 16.62 km

Fastest stage time for Petter Solberg.

SS 20 : WHAANGA COAST 1 - 29.60 km

Second stage win for Sebastien Loeb.

Petter Solberg hits a rock and falls down to second place.

Marcus Gronholm spins but takes the lead from Solberg.

Francois Duval goes off the road and finishes the stage on 3 wheels. He loses more than 18 minutes.

SS 21 : TE HUTEWAI 2 - 11.15 km

Fastest stage time for Marcus Gronholm.

SS 22 : TE PAPATAU 2 - 16.62 km

Petter Solberg moves back to first place after winning another stage.

Marcus Gronholm spins and loses around 15 seconds. He falls back to second place, tied with Markko Martin.

SS 23 : WHAANGA COAST 2 - 29.60 km

Marcus Gronholm gets the final stage win to finish ahead of Markko Martin.

Petter Solberg wins the Rally New Zealand for the first time.

Hugo GIGUERE
CAPSIS International


 

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Next:
ERC: Rally Matador Tatry – 00 0000 - 00:00
ERC: Rally de Canarias - Trofeo el Cortes Ingles – 20 April 2004 - 09:31
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ERC: Balkan Rally, Yugoslavia – 09 May 2004 - 09:54

Previous:
Excellent performance by Petter Solberg – 17 April 2004 - 20:45
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
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