The longest speed test of this 12th round of the FIA World Rally Championship was forecast to be the one that could play a crucial part in the outcome of the Rally New Zealand. Almost 60km of flat out driving did indeed have a major effect, significantly widening the time gaps between the leading drivers and spelling the end of the road for one of the frontrunners.
Carlos Sainz and Luis Moya were the quickest Ford Rallye Sport challengers through the fast and flowing special stage. Their Focus RS World Rally Car was sixth quickest and the Spanish duo climbed to seventh in the overall standings. Amazingly for such a long test, Sainz was just 0.3sec faster than the Focus RS of team-mates Markko Märtin and Michael Park, who moved into the drivers’ points by climbing to sixth.
“I just let my driving flow, didn’t push too hard and it went quite well,” said Märtin. “I think our tyre choice was too soft. We lost a little time at the start of the stage because of the softer option but we had reasonable speed for the rest of the test. Harder compound Pirelli rubber would have enabled us to push more at the start.”
Sainz did select a harder compound and was happy with his performance. “Given our road position, a hard compound seemed the best option and it turned out that way. I’m feeling confident with the car today and I enjoyed that stage. It’s nice to have a longer stage, it gives us variety,” explained the 40-year-old Madrid driver.
The big loser of the long test was Finn Jani Paasonen who rolled out of fifth place just 8km into the stage.
Drivers now tackle four stages covering 56.37km with no chance for service in between and Park highlighted the problems this can cause. “You just can’t afford to hit problems on the first stage of this group because there are three more to drive before we return to the service park. The time lost by having to struggle through three more tests could be huge,” he said.
Leaderboard After Stage 11
|1. R Burns/R Reid||GB||Peugeot 206||2hr 04min 24.9sec|
|2. M Grönholm/T Rautiainen||FIN||Peugeot 206||2hr 05min 10.8sec|
|3. H Rovanperä/R Pietilainen||FIN||Peugeot 206||2hr 05min 15.3sec|
|4. P Solberg/P Mills||N||Subaru Impreza||2hr 06min 20.1sec|
|5. T Mäkinen/K Lindström||FIN||Subaru Impreza||2hr 06min 29.5sec|
|6. M Märtin/M Park||EE||Ford Focus RS||2hr 07min 03.9sec|
|7. C Sainz/L Moya||E||Ford Focus RS||2hr 07min 29.6sec|
|8. JE Ford F Kankkunen/J Repo||FIN||Hyundai Accent||2hr 07min 48.4sec|
|9. F Loix/S Smeets||B||Hyundai Accent||2hr 08min 05.7sec|
|10 T Gardemeister/P Lukander||FIN||Skoda Octavia||2hr 08min 46.4sec|
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