Rally New Zealand: Day 1
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing kicks off Kiwi challenge in Auckland
The TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team has got its first Rally New Zealand underway following a short super special stage in the host city Auckland.
On the FIA World Rally Championship’s first visit to New Zealand for 10 years, the crews began three days of reconnaissance on Monday, making fresh pacenotes for the iconic gravel stages of the country’s North Island.
Thursday began with shakedown to the north-west of the city. With pre-event testing not permitted outside of Europe, the 3.54-kilometre stage provided the first opportunity for the teams to run their Rally1 cars on New Zealand roads and make any final adjustments before the competitive action began.
Championship leader Kalle Rovanperä posted the fastest time following three runs over the shakedown, with team-mates Sébastien Ogier and Elfyn Evans also inside a top six covered by just eight tenths of a second.
The first stage of the rally was held within the Pukekawa Auckland Domain park in the city, where the asphalt roads were made more slippery by rain just before the start. Takamoto Katsuta was the leading GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID driver through the stage in his TGR WRT Next Generation in fourth, just ahead of Evans and Rovanperä with Ogier also close behind in eighth.
Jari-Matti Latvala (Team Principal)
“It’s really nice to be back here in New Zealand. It’s a beautiful country, the people are very nice and the stages have a lovely character. Our drivers were happy after shakedown and feeling good with the car. The times were close but from what we saw I’m confident that we are on the right level to fight for the victory this weekend. The first stage on asphalt this evening was quite tricky but our guys all got through it OK and now we’re ready to go into a big day tomorrow in a positive way.”
Sébastien Ogier (Driver car 1)
“The rain before the start tonight made the first stage a bit more difficult, and it probably dried a bit for the guys behind us. Shakedown was not especially representative of the rally but it was extremely fast, and it was important for me to get the confidence in the high-speed sections. There are a lot of them in these stages this weekend and that’s probably the most challenging thing after three months out. I want to fight for the top positions and for the win if we can. Hopefully our road position can help us a bit in the beginning and I will give it everything.”
Elfyn Evans (Driver car 33)
“This is a rally with a lot of history so it’s great to be here finding out all about the legendary roads for ourselves. It’s a new event and new pacenotes for most of us and it’s quite a fast rally, so it’s not easy to get those notes right. There are some really nice parts and some really tricky parts as well but I’m really looking forward to the weekend. Shakedown was a good chance to get behind the wheel, but it was quite different in character to what we’ll face tomorrow, as was the first stage. It’s going to be a very long day and the tyre choice could be difficult depending on the weather.”
Kalle Rovanperä (Driver car 69)
“It’s great to be here in New Zealand; the roads are really nice. There is a lot of loose gravel which will be tricky for us opening the road but I hope we can enjoy the stages. It wasn’t the best run through the first stage for me, but it was nice to see all the people there to watch us. Tomorrow is definitely going to be the biggest challenge as we will drive over half of the rally distance while cleaning the road. That’s not an ideal situation for us but we will try to make the most of it.”
End of day one (Thursday):
1 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) 1m45.8s
2 Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (Ford Puma Rally1 HYBRID) +0.9s
3 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +1.6s
4 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +2.0s
5 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +2.2s
6 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +2.6s
7 Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (Ford Puma Rally1 HYBRID) +2.9s
8 Sébastien Ogier/Benjamin Veillas (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +4.5s
9 Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +4.5s
10 Hayden Paddon/John Kennard (Hyundai i20 N Rally2) +6.6s
(Results as of 19:30 on Thursday, for the latest results please visit www.wrc.com)
Friday features more than half of the rally’s competitive distance with 158.56 kilometres to be driven across two loops of classic stages to the south around Raglan. The iconic Whaanga Coast, running alongside the Tasman Sea, is followed by stages south and north of Te Ākau. A tyre fitting zone in Raglan separates the two loops, rather than a full service.
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