17 November 2006
Gronholm in a class apart in NZ.
Petter's brother, Henning didn't fare that well either and he finished the day 30 seconds further back, in seventh place. Henning's big problem occurred in the morning, in the very first test, when a water pipe broke in Pirongia West – just like it did in Cyprus back in September. He completed the stage having had to put up with hot water pouring into the cockpit from the engine and while he managed to fix the problem before the start of SS2, the pace still wasn't really there and he ended the day some way off his OMV Peugeot team-mate, Manfred Stohl.
Luis Perez Companc currently completes the provisional points' scorers' for the Stobart squad. The Argentine was consistent but complained that his road position left him at a disadvantage – with the roads badly cut up and rutted by the time it was his turn to go through the tests.
Of the other WRC runners', Chris Atkinson had a bad start and lost around 30-40 seconds in the first test when he had a spin. His confidence improved as the day went on and he was even second quickest in the super special. However like his SWRT team-mate, Petter Solberg, the Aussie was frustrated with the lack of grip and as such he could only post times towards the bottom end of the top ten in the 'proper' stages.
MotoGP super-star, Valentino Rossi completed the day in 24th position overall. The Italian was extremely cautious to start with, no doubt aware how early he went out on the Rally GB in 2002 – his only other outing in the WRC. He was 33rd fastest in SS1 and 28th quickest in SS2. In the afternoon though he found his feet a bit more, and posted the 20th best times in SS3 and SS4, before finishing off the day with the 13th best time in the super special. All-in-all he maintained he was enjoying the experience and seemingly felt increasing more comfortable in his privately entered Subaru Impreza WRC car as the day went on and he got more miles under his belt.
Stobart VK's Matthew Wilson was the only significant retirement - the Brit had to pull out on the third test of the day, when he had engine problems. If he can re-start on Saturday under the SupeRally he will do so from 34th position overall.
In the Production Car WRC category, Jari-Matti Latvala has gotten off to a good start and he finished the day 11.2 seconds up on Mirco Baldacci. Toshi Arai completes the PCWRC podium 6 seconds or so further back, while Fumio Nutahara is fourth. Nutahara needs a good result if he is to overhaul current PCWRC points' leader, Nasser Al-Attiyah, who has a six-point cushion and who is sixth.
The action now resumes on Saturday - six more stages and another 130-odd competitive kilometres lay in wait, before the second overnight halt. SS6, the 18.18 kilometre run through Port Waikato is scheduled to start at 09.32 hours local time.
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