Rally New Zealand: Day 2
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing trio all in the lead battle
The TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team has three cars within less than eight seconds of the lead following the longest and first full day of competition at Rally New Zealand. Elfyn Evans is second, only 0.2s from the leader, with team-mates Sébastien Ogier third and Kalle Rovanperä fourth.
The first day of FIA World Rally Championship action on New Zealand’s smooth gravel roads for a decade was also one of the longest of the 2022 season, with 158.56 competitive kilometres to be tackled across two loops of three classic stages to the south of Auckland. Changeable weather conditions added to the challenge and contributed to multiple lead changes and the remarkably close leaderboard at the end of the day, with only 7.2s covering the top four drivers.
Evans had the strongest morning of the GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID drivers, winning the Te Ākau South stage that was the longest of the event at 31.48 km. With no mid-day service, he arrived at the tyre fitting zone in Raglan only 2.6s from the lead, and closed up further over the course of a consistent afternoon.
On his first WRC outing since Kenya in June, Ogier came within 0.4s of the fastest time in the iconic Whaanga Coast test that opened the day and then claimed a dominant stage win on the afternoon pass to leap from fifth to first. Damage to the rear wing incurred on the following test meant he ended the day third, 6.7s from the lead.
Championship leader Rovanperä is just half a second further back, a positive result considering he was disadvantaged sweeping the road in drier and looser sections. He also claimed a stage win in the second pass of Te Ākau South.
Takamoto Katsuta rounded out the day in eighth position overall in his TGR WRT Next Generation entry.
Jari-Matti Latvala (Team Principal)
“We can be very happy with the performance of our cars and our drivers today; to have three in the top four and all very much with a chance to fight for the victory. All of our drivers seem to be enjoying it and up for the fight, and what we have achieved today on such an important day is really good. The weather has been challenging and it looks like it is going to be that way for the rest of the rally. It’s maybe not so nice for the drivers in the stages but it also gives them a chance to make a difference, and I think we could see some bigger gaps tomorrow. Hopefully it works out in our favour.”
Sébastien Ogier (Driver car 1)
“Overall it’s been a good day. It’s been fun to drive and I think we’ve had decent pace returning on such a fast rally where you need the commitment and the confidence. I had quite a good rhythm already on the first stage this morning, and the afternoon started really well in Whaanga Coast. In the next stage we got the rain quite heavily, I knew we had to take risks to not lose too much compared to the others and we went a bit wide. Unfortunately we damaged the rear wing on some branches, and the last stage without that was quite difficult. But I’m happy to still be in the fight for the win.”
Elfyn Evans (Driver car 33)
“I’m fairly happy overall with our day. It’s been a full-on day with a lot of long stages but also a lot of fun. The conditions have been challenging in some places but in others it’s felt like we’ve had quite a lot of grip, so it’s been changing quite a lot. It’s been a bit up-and-down with the conditions favouring different positions on the road and we got caught in the rain ourselves at one point but to finish the day right in the fight is positive. We’re expecting heavy rain tonight and tomorrow, and those stages are usually a bit faster, so it should be a challenging day but I’m looking forward to it.”
Kalle Rovanperä (Driver car 69)
“It’s been a long day and it’s nice to get through it in quite a good position tonight. It was good to get some rain this morning but there was still a bit of loose gravel in the first stage especially. Then on the other two we had a bit more grip and could enjoy the driving more. In the afternoon, Whaanga Coast was drying up so there was plenty of cleaning for us even on the second pass. On the next one there was a lot of rain and mud, I tried to push in the tricky conditions and we managed to get some time back. We’re still fairly close to the lead so we have to be happy. The weather was helping us a bit and hopefully we can enjoy it again tomorrow.”
End of day two (Friday):
1 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) 1m36.48.6s
2 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +0.2s
3 Sébastien Ogier/Benjamin Veillas (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +6.7s
4 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +7.2s
5 Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (Ford Puma Rally1 HYBRID) +43.8s
6 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +45.6s
7 Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +1m28.3s
8 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +1m42.0s
9 Hayden Paddon/John Kennard (Hyundai i20 N Rally2) +5m07.0s
10 Lorenzo Bertelli/Lorenzo Granai (Ford Puma Rally1 HYBRID) +5m41.4s
(Results as of 19:00 on Friday, for the latest results please visit www.wrc.com)
Saturday takes place to the north of Auckland with two more loops of three stages to be run either side of mid-day service. Most of the roads were last used competitively by the WRC over 25 years ago, although Puhoi (the day’s longest test at 22.5 km) did feature in the last visit in 2012.
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