Forty-six cars headed south from Auckland early this morning for the final leg of this 12th round of the FIA World Rally Championship. Cloudless skies and bright sunshine greeted the drivers, weary after two long days behind the wheel and even more tired after the clocks moved forward one hour last night.
Today’s action began with the 4.62km Otorohea Trig and the 32.43km Te Akau South, both stages close to the North Island’s west coast.
Ford Rallye Sport drivers Carlos Sainz and Luis Moya started brightly in their Focus RS World Rally Car, setting fifth fastest time through the short opening test and then posting fourth best time in the longer stage to maintain their overnight fifth position.
“We’ve tried a few experiments this morning with the set-up of our car, trying to learn a few more things,” said Sainz. “There’s a big gap in front of us and a big one behind so we’ve just got to concentrate on bringing the car home to the finish in the points.”
Drivers now face a short, sharp blast of six special stages in Maramarua Forest covering 53.14km before the finish in Auckland this afternoon. With no opportunity for service between any of the stages, it will be crucial for drivers to avoid problems.
Leaderboard After Stage 20
|1. M Grönholm/T Rautiainen||FIN||Peugeot 206||3hr 30min 00.0sec|
|2. H Rovanperä/V Silander||FIN||Peugeot 206||3hr 31min 26.1sec|
|3. P Solberg/P Mills||N||Subaru Impreza||3hr 32min 53.7sec|
|4. T Mäkinen/K Lindström||FIN||Subaru Impreza||3hr 34min 05.7sec|
|5. C Sainz/L Moya||E||Ford Focus RS||3hr 34min 52.9sec|
|6. J Kankkunen/J Repo||FIN||Hyundai Accent||3hr 36min 12.5sec|
|7. F Loix/S Smeets||B||Hyundai Accent||3hr 36min 44.9sec|
|8. G Panizzi/H Panizzi||F||Peugeot 206||3hr 37min 31.7sec|
|9.TGardemeister/P Lukander||FIN||Skoda Octavia||3hr 38min 03.7sec|
|10 F Delecour/D Grataloup||F||Mitsubishi Lancer||3hr 39min 25.4sec|