WRC » 6 October 2002
Gronholm secures Drivers' title with Rally NZ win.
The three Hyundai Accent WRC3s of Juha Kankkunen, Freddy Loix and Armin Schwarz have run without any major problems. Hyundai started this morning with all three of its entries still running, and the Korean manufacturer was determined to ensure that it stayed that way. As a result, drivers Juha Kankkunen, Freddy Loix and Armin Schwarz were all told to hold station. They did as they were told; Schwarz maintained his overnight 11th place, despite concerns about his differential mapping this morning. He was gifted 10th by Solberg's late retirement.
Kankkunen held onto sixth this morning, then moved up to fifth when Solberg retired to secure Hyundai's first drivers points of the season. Loix backed up his team-mate and arrived at the Manukau finish 42.3 seconds behind to score a point for himself and take Hyundai's haul to three points. It was the only manufacturer to get all of its entries to the finish.
Juha Kankkunen said: ''It's very good to get so many points for the team. Scoring anything in the world championship these days is pretty difficult, so three points from such a long trip is good for the whole team. I don't know if we can do the same again in Australia, but the first-day road conditions should suit us again so anything's possible.''
Freddy Loix added: ''Today I had been told just to make sure that I finished and it wasn't fun to drive at all. Of course I would have liked to have been able to fight with Juha to be the top Hyundai but the team really wanted all three cars to finish so there wasn't any point in taking risks. I feel a bit sorry for Petter with his late retirement but it means I get my first point of the year, which is encouraging after so much work from everybody.''
The remaining Skoda Octavia WRC of Toni Gardemeister ran reliably, although the Finn did feel that his car was set up too stiffly for this morning's opening pair of stages.
Gardemeister had shouldered Skoda's hopes in New Zealand since the second stage of the rally, when his team-mate Kenneth Eriksson crashed out. The young Finn started today's stages with little to gain, since he was over half a minute behind Gilles Panizzi and well over a minute clear of François Delecour. As a result, Gardemeister concentrated on not making any mistakes and he brought his car to the Manukau finish in eighth overall.
Gardemeister commented: ''The roads this morning were so, so slippery. I looked at the timesheets and some of the Group N cars were quicker than us because they didn't have so much gravel on the road. Also I think our car hasn't been quite right as well, because it feels like the suspension was very stiff.''
At Mitsubishi François Delecour's Lancer Evo WRC has been reliable, although the Frenchman did complain of a lack of feeling in the brakes towards the end of SS20.
Delecour had little to gain from taking risks today, so the Frenchman concentrated on playing with settings and again trying the driving techniques used by Jani Paasonen - who had gone so well before retiring yesterday in SS11. He ended the event in ninth overall.
Delecour said: ''It's been very, very hard for us today because the roads have so much loose gravel on them. This morning I lost a little bit of feeling in the brakes - just the bite - but it wasn't such a big problem. Again today I've tried to drive like Jani did, using the brakes quite heavily to get the car lined up for corners, but there's been so much loose on the road that it's still been very difficult.''
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