Skoda Motorsport Heads For The Flowing Stages Of New Zealand

  • Skoda Motorsport returns to New Zealand for the first time since 2003
  • Spectacular flowing ‘drivers’ stages all new for the Fabia WRC 05

After debuting the new Fabia WRC 05 in Mexico the Skoda Motorsport World Rally Team remains outside Europe for round four of the World Rally Championship. Rally New Zealand (April 7-10) is the furthest event from the team’s Mladá Boleslav base in heart of Europe and for this second long-haul event of the season the team will be represented by Armin Schwarz/Klaus Wicha and Janne Tuohino/Mikko Markkula.

Rally New Zealand is one of the longest serving events in the current WRC calendar and is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year. The stages are generally regarded as being among the most enjoyable in the championship thanks to their flowing nature. Severely cambered roads allow drivers to really show their skills at high speed and the spectacular North Island scenery through which the event passes, especially on the final day, provides some of the most stunning visual images of the season.

Despite being the most experienced driver in the WRC, the fact that this event didn’t always count towards the full World Championship means that Armin Schwarz has only contested Rally New Zealand four times although he achieved a podium finish in 1994. The second Fabia WRC 05 will be driven by New Zealand debutant Janne Tuohino.

The Skoda Fabia WRC 05 has a revised aerodynamic package that should be ideally suited to the nature of the stages in New Zealand. So far this season the Fabia, both in its current specification and the one preceding it for the first two rounds, has shown significant improvements in pace but has so far been denied the overall result that the team is seeking.

Armin said: "New Zealand is a real drivers’ rally and it should suit our car’s handling. It’s quite a high-speed event and you need to balance confidence with caution. The quite severe camber of the roads means you can push hard but you mustn’t be over-confident, especially if the stages are dry as the loose gravel is very slippery. It is actually better if the surface is a little bit damp which is always possible at this time of year which is autumn in New Zealand as the grip is then much greater."

Janne said: "Although this is my first time competing in New Zealand I made the recce there in 2003. At the time I said that I really wanted to compete on this rally as the roads are really beautiful, very fast and in some places quite like Finland. They can be quite slippery so our starting position on the road will be quite important each day."

Head of the Skoda Motorsport World Rally Team, Martin Muehlmeier, said: "We have seen good performances so far this season but not the best results. In New Zealand we must try to get both cars to the finish without problems and at the same time get the level of performance and speed from the car that we have already shown is there. That way we will end the rally with the result we deserve."

Rally New Zealand in detail

Rally New Zealand is based in Auckland, also known as the City of Sails thanks to the city’s passion for sailing and New Zealand’s successful America’s Cup campaigns of the nineties. The rally begins in the evening of Thursday April 7 with a traditional ceremonial start on the waterfront.

Friday and Saturday sees the event based north of Auckland at Paparoa. On Friday there are eight stages (129.22kms) run as two groups of four. On Saturday there are six more tests near Paparoa before the event returns to Auckland for two superspecial stages run at the nearby Manukau showground (leg total 139.49kms). Sunday’s final leg is run to the south of Auckland near Raglan with no service during the four stages that include two runs over the spectacular Whaanga Coast stage. The event finishes in Auckland at 3.30pm (New Zealand is Central European Summer Time +10 hours).

Published 6 April 2005 Melanie Carter

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