Mikko Hirvonen [BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRT]:

"I've never had such a good rhythm in New Zealand. When I have that kind of rhythm on these flowing roads, it feels as if I don't need to push too hard. It's tricky to find the right balance here because if you cross the camber in the bends then you immediately slide off the line and lose time. The roads have dried more quickly than we thought and it was slippery in the loose gravel, but I don't think road position made too much of a difference.

"Tomorrow I will be first on the road so it won't be easy on the slippery gravel. I've been in that position before and just have to find a way around it. I'm not sure there is a big difference between first and second in the start order but it won't be easy, especially as each stage will only be driven once so there is no chance to drive on cleaner roads. There will be more loose gravel tomorrow than on any other day."

Sebastien Loeb [Citroen Total WRT]:

"The terrain is dictating how fast we go. We can't fault our C4 WRC. Its set-up is perfect for these stages and it is handling excellently. Despite the limited amount of grip that was available, I pushed as hard as I could. We were forced to use hard compound tyres which didn't work well on the cold, hard-packed ground we found this morning. On top of that, we had so much roadsweeping to do that it was really difficult to post quick times, but I haven't given up challenging for the lead.

"We pushed has hard as we could. We even closed to within seven tenths of the lead by the end of SS4.1. Unfortunately, we stalled before the start of SS4.2 and the engine refused to fire up again. We had to push the car to get it started and we checked in late. That cost us valuable time which we will need to try to claw back tomorrow."

Daniel Sordo [Citroen Total WRT]:

"It's very frustrating. It was impossible to make full use of our car's potential. The top-coating of gravel was so thick in places that our tyres, which we are no longer allowed to 're-cut', weren't able to eke out enough grip. Even running third on the road, we were still sweeping a clearer line for those running behind us in the order. I tried to profit as much as I could from the competitiveness of our car. Given the conditions, I'm quite pleased with our day and we are in a good position for tomorrow."

Jari-Matti Latvala [BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRT]:

"I'm pleased that my confidence and rhythm are coming back after my problems in Germany. It felt about 95 per cent this morning. I found it harder to get my driving together this afternoon and hit a bank in the penultimate stage, knocking the front bumper from the car. The roads were quite dry but where it was wet, the tracks were really slippery. They didn't clean up as much as I thought. I slowed towards the end of the penultimate stage to ensure a better road position for tomorrow. Third will be a good place to start. It will be a challenging day but I really like those roads so I'm looking forward to it."

Francois Duval [Stobart VK M-Sport Ford WRT]:

"Today has been good for us especially with this being my first WRC event on gravel since Greece last year. This morning the car was not feeling great so we changed the rollbar at service which resulted in much less over-steer and this helped my confidence a lot this afternoon. On the last two stages I was using a bit too much left-foot braking and I lost the front brakes but apart from that everything went well this afternoon."

Urmo Aava [PH Sport-Citroen C4 WRC]:

[No Quote]

Petter Solberg [Subaru WRT]:

"Today has been very tough. "We've been pushing hard, but we're too far off the leaders. We had some problems with damaged front right suspension, and that's where we lost most. Grip was really tricky this morning, very slippery, and it got better this afternoon, but with our road position we should have been faster."

Per-Gunnar Andersson [Suzuki WRT]:

"The first stage was really tough, it was a bit of a surprise. The car was much too hard and this was combined with the driving been too bad. The tyre was too hard for the conditions, but this is the same for everybody. We came out of the first stage and made some changes to the suspension on the car - we softened it as much as we could. This helped in the second stage and then in the third, everything was going really well. I found the re-run of Pirongia West (SS4) quite hard, I couldn't find a rhythm in the stage. It's been a good day today, though. The car has been perfect and we're in the best position possible. Now we have to stay there."

Toni Gardemeister [Suzuki WRT]:

"This morning was disappointing for me. I really wanted a good run here and had a nice feeling, but then we got the puncture. After that, the rest of the day has been good. No problems. The car has been running well, but the conditions have been tough this morning. Running through the stages the second time, the line is looking cleaner which is helping to give us more traction."

Marco Baldacci [Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX]: [PWRC leader]

"I had a spin. It was in the first stage out of service. I was on the line, on the line, on the line and then spin. Terrible, Twenty seconds have gone there. Bang. Okay, then it was not so bad. My only problem today has been in the slow corners. My car is set-up for the fast places, where it is working really well, but in the slow I'm not getting the traction."

Martin Prokop [Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX]: [JWRC leader]

"I didn't have much confidence this morning. It's better in the afternoon, but still in the really fast places I don't know this car as well as I would like. Maybe I'm dropping some time there. It's so different to drive here; this pace is really not the same as anywhere else that I've competed before."

Fumio Nutahara [Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 9]: [PWRC - third overall]
"They are very exciting to drive. But I have to be patient with the car. I can't force anything. The car has been perfect for me, now I have to think about tomorrow. It's so close, a big battle."

Notable retirements:

Chris Atkinson [Subaru WRT]: Retired on SS4 after crashing

"OK, today has not been perfect, we're not as quick as we wanted to be and seventh isn't what we were aiming for, but it's not been so bad. The car is getting better on tarmac. There are still a few things to fine-tune to get the speed we're missing, but we keep working on it this weekend and I think if we can get there we'll be ok. We're still lacking a little confidence in these conditions, but then we haven't done much testing. People were changing tyre compounds from the morning to the afternoon, from hard to soft, so for me I don't think our tyre choice made so much difference. Some areas we lost a bit, but some weren't so bad so it pretty much worked out. Tomorrow will be difficult and we're a little way down the order, but we'll keep working hard and improving as much as we can."

Matthew Wilson [Stobart VK M-Sport Ford WRT]: Retired on SS5 with gearbox problems

"It is a shame we had to retire today after doing so well. The times were looking good and we had some really promising splits on that last stage before we retired. This is the sport sometimes though and tomorrow we will have a repaired car and a perfect road position so I'm looking forward to setting some more fast times. Again though, it is disappointing because we were in a position to score good points for both the team and the championship."

Team principals:

Olivier Quesnel [Citroen Total WRT - team principal]:

"Both our cars are within half a minute of the overnight leaders, so I am relatively happy with the way the day has gone. S?bastien and Daniel limited the damage brilliantly and they could even have been in front this evening had it not been for a minor mechanical problem. They will try to recover the lead tomorrow. Dani and Marc put in the sort of drive that we asked of them. Their objective was to finish as close as possible to the front-runners and they are currently third, so our overnight positions aren't bad at all. There is still a very long way to go and a great deal can still happen. I'm also pleased with the performance of Urmo Aava and Kuldar Sikk who are sixth in the Citro?n Sport Technologies C4 WRC."

Malcolm Wilson [Stobart VK M-Sport Ford WRT - team boss]:

"It has been a great first day by Fran?ois after such a long break since his last gravel event in a World Rally car. He has picked up the pace over the course of the day and is now in a position to score good points for the Stobart team. It's a shame Matthew has picked up his problem today. He was showing good speed and setting impressive split times especially on the first stage this afternoon but I'm sure he will come back tomorrow and continue this form."

David Richards [Subaru WRT - managing director]:

"There's no getting away from the disappointment of losing one of our cars on the first day of the rally. "The remainder of the event for Chris will form an extended test programme to get more mileage under his belt, whilst at the same time we'll use what we can from this to help Petter."

Paul Wilding [Suzuki WRT - team manager]:

"Without Toni's puncture this morning, this would have been pretty much the perfect day for the team. Neither car has had any kind of a problem, which is really satisfying for Suzuki after all the hard work, which has been put in on the SX4 WRC. Tomorrow's stages are a bit faster and more flowing, so we're looking forward to some more trouble-free and fast running from both P-G and Toni."


Join the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register to add your comment