Petter Solberg was surprised to come away from Rally New Zealand clutching a fourth place finish after experiencing a positive end to what had threatened to be a fruitless weekend for the former champion.
Complaining about a lack of grip from his Subaru Impreza, Solberg completed leg two of the rally in a decidedly underwhelming seventh, but after moving up to sixth at the expense of Urmo Aava on the first stage of the day, Solberg was promoted a further two places following Jari-Matti Latvala and Francois Duval's retirement.
Coming away with five hard earned points, although Solberg's final position may have been slightly opportunistic, his top three pace on the final day of competition suggests what may be possible from the new car over the coming rounds.
“It's been a tough rally for us but fourth place is good after this weekend. What an incredible finish, the Whaanga stage was like a scrap yard! Today the car felt the best it has this weekend, so we are definitely making steps in the right direction but it's taking a little time.
“Of course, we are here for winning though so we have some more steps to take, but we have to lift our heads now and keep working so we can start to fight at the front.”
SWRT boss David Richards was also pleased with the positive outcome of the rally, even if he admits their overall performance was not as strong as he had hoped.
“Rally New Zealand last year produced the closest WRC finish in recent years, and this year we have seen yet again an incredible twist on the final day. Petter and Phil did a solid job in what was a much more positive day for us.
“Their efforts were rewarded with a last-minute leap to fourth position, which goes some way to consoling what has overall been a tough weekend for the team.”