Last stage dramas for Conrad

Last stage dramas for ConradFrom Conrad Rautenbach Press [ 31/08/2008 ].
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Being the only Priority One or Two driver never to have contested this rally before, Conrad Rautenbach was looking to bag as much New Zealand experience as possible in his PH Sport-run Citroen C4 WRC. The first two days provided mixed fortunes for the reigning FIA African Rally Champion. The mysteries of the North Island roads were not making it easy for the 23-year-old Kiwi debutant.

After playing himself in through Friday morning, Rautenbach was more comfortable on Friday afternoon, posting times on the fringes of the top 10. Given his comfort with the car on Friday, he elected not to change the dampers ahead of Saturday's action
out west of the rally's Hamilton base. Unfortunately for the Zimbabwean, the dampers failed mid-way through Saturday morning, making the car exceptionally difficult to handle down the tight and twisty stages. Fresh dampers and a completely revised set-up worked well on the afternoon's toweringly fast Te Akau roads, where Conrad was much closer to the times set by the factory drivers. Sunday morning was looking even better as he closed on a top-10 position, only to suffer the heartache of a throttle body failure on the second run through Whaanga Coast, forcing Conrad and co-driver David Senior into retirement at the end of the penultimate

The quick quote…

"Unbelievable! London to the other side of the world only to retire on the last long stage. The flip side is that I've learned loads. I think they call it character-building…"

Conrad's full story…

"I wasn't expecting this event to be so tough to learn. You see those cambers and think: "Right, this is it, I can get on it here and throw the car into the corner. But you can't. It doesn't work like that. These roads need to be learned. And once they've been learned, they demand respect. This has been a really tough three days for David [Senior, co-driver] and myself. "David was losing his voice a little bit on the first day, so I couldn't hear all of the notes properly, but by the afternoon he was feeling better. That first afternoon was good for us, I was getting the feeling and we were really getting the confidence up on the roads. Maybe that was a small part of our downfall for Saturday morning... "I decided not to change the dampers on Saturday night. The team thought they should be changed, but the car was good and thought we could get another morning out of them. Big mistake. Mid-way through Saturday, the car was everywhere. It was terrible. In the Franklin stage, I've never spun a car as many times as that. I had the first spin and thought: "Okay, that's it,slow down and let's get through this." But then we spun again. And again. And again. It wasn't funny. I think I lost count of the spins in the end."Sunday morning and Whaanga Coast was legendary, though. And we were starting to take time out of [Federico] Villagra (Munchi's Ford World Rally Team). I was starting to think it was possible to get to the top 10.Just, possible. So, we pushed on and we pushed harder. He hit back in the next, but we were back on it for the second run along the coast. In the
first split, we took more time out of him. Then disaster. We came over a crest and the engine died. The throttle body had broken. There was no warning, just nothing. Dead. We pushed the car out of the way and then took nine minutes to fix the problem. We got out of the stage, but retired after that. What a disaster! "To know that, if we hadn't had the problems,we could have been in the points on our first visit to a rally as technical as this is great news – but in a way it makes it doubly frustrating. "Now, though, it's time for me to relax after such a fairly stressful rally. I'm off to see some mates in Brisbane for a week. That should help to ease the disappointment of today."