From Ron Salter [ 22/09/2001 ].
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Ford's Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz are both aiming to finish on the podium having ended the second leg in 2nd and 4th positions respectively - a good performance considering they lost time sweeping the roads after finishing yesterday's special stages high up the running order. Francois Delecour meanwhile heads into the final day holding 12th position having rolled on this morning's 59km opener. Richard Burns leads in the Subaru and looks like a good bet to secure the new-shape Impreza it's first WRC victory whilst Finland's Harri Rovanpera splits the Focuses in his Peugeot 206.
One might think the current leaderboard presents a perfect opportunity for British rivals McRae and Burns to fight it out but Colin reckons Richard, also affectionately known as the "Ginger Whinger", is out of reach this time: "To be lying second is the best we could have hoped for in these conditions," said McRae. "We’re too far behind Richard to challenge him tomorrow, even though we will have slightly cleaner roads, so our fight will be with Harri for second and we must try to consolidate our position."
"The damp conditions this afternoon allowed us to go a little quicker because the roads weren’t as slippery. We’ve used narrow Pirelli tyres most of the day, which is very unusual on a dry rally, but they were ideal for coping with the gravel and everything has gone pretty much to plan," added the 33-year-old Scot.
Colin is some 42.6s behind Burns, but a win is still not out of the question.. only a bad spin from the Subaru driver could close it right up. Rovanpera is trailing McRae by nearly 25s meanwhile, with Carlos Sainz a further 22s behind him.
If the weather is dry overnight and tomorrow then Sainz will have a slight advantage over Rovanperä and his sights are set on regaining third. "We’ll have to wait and see what the weather is like in the morning. If it’s dry we can try to catch Harri but if it’s wet then the conditions will be more even and it will be harder for us," said Sainz. "We’ve not had any problems today, but we’ve taken quite a few risks and not seen the benefits. Every position further down the running order was an advantage today and unfortunately we weren’t far enough down."
Delecour looked to have the ideal starting position this morning in eighth but his hopes were ruined when he rolled 12km from the start of the first test. "I was driving quite steadily, too steadily, and I just lost concentration," said the 39-year-old Frenchman. "The car slid wide and we rolled. It ended on its roof and we had to kick out the windscreen to get out of the car. It took us a long time to get the car back on its wheels. It was a stupid mistake."
He dropped over four minutes in the accident, sliding to 17th, and cut his elbow but a string of determined performances enabled him to climb back up the order on stages he had never driven before. "I think we can make the top 10 but we have no chance of a points finish," added Delecour.
Ford Martini team director Malcolm Wilson echoed his drivers’ views on the importance of road position. "The fact that we’ve not set any quickest times on normal stages, apart from Colin’s fastest time when all the other drivers were easing off last night, shows how crucial the running order has been here. Both Colin and Carlos have done well to hold on today. Tomorrow we’ll see where we are after the long second stage and make a plan from there, but second and third is possible," he said.
If positions remain as they are, McRae will move back into the joint championship lead with Tommi Makinen whilst Carlos Sainz will also close the gap to the top of the points standings. The Ford team are set to move to the head of the manufacturers series with Mitsubishi not likely to score more than a point or two and Peugeot still way behind.
The final day of the Rally New Zealand covers 8 stages totaling 89km. WRC-Online.net will keep you informed of all the latest developments.
Leading positions at end of day two:
1 R.BURNS / R.REID GB SUBARU IMPREZA 2.56.03.6
2 C.McRAE / N.GRIST GB FORD FOCUS +42.6
3 H.ROVANPERA / R.PIETILAINEN FIN PEUGEOT 206 +1.05.2
4 C.SAINZ / L.MOYA E FORD FOCUS 126.96.36.199 +1.27.5
5 M.GRONHOLM / T.RAUTIAINEN FIN PEUGEOT 206 +1.42.5
6 D.AURIOL / D.GIRAUDET F PEUGEOT 206 +1.43.0
7 T.MAKINEN / R.MANNISENMAKI FIN MITSUBISHI LANCER +2.42.8
8 P.SOLBERG / P.MILLS N/GB SUBARU IMPREZA +3.06.9
9 A.McRAE / D.SENIOR GB HYUNDAI ACCENT +3.27.4
10 F.LOIX / S.SMEETS B MITSUBISHI CARISMA GT +4.34.3
12 F.DELECOUR / D.GRATALOUP F FORD FOCUS +5.15.4