M-Sport's prognose voor de komende WRC Rally in
and Latvala aim to relight Ford's gold medal bid:
BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team journeys to
New Zealand for the third rally in just five weekends intent on putting
its world title challenge back on track. The world champion dropped to
second in both the manufacturers' and drivers' standings in the FIA
World Rally Championship on Germany's asphalt roads earlier this month
and is keen to make amends on the team's more favoured gravel surface.
The flowing roads of Rally New Zealand (28 - 31 August) offer the
perfect opportunity for the all-Finnish line-up of Mikko Hirvonen and
Jarmo Lehtinen and colleagues Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila to
fight back in their Focus RS World Rally Cars. Fast, smooth as a
billiard table and cambered, the North Island roads gently wind through
lush, green countryside and are similar to Finland. They are widely
regarded as the most enjoyable of the season and invite drivers to
New Zealand has endured a very wet winter, which has brought about late
changes to the route. While more rain would soften the roads further,
the wet spell should ensure there will be no loose gravel on the surface,
offering better grip for the early starters – Hirvonen will be second in
the start order.
Twenty-eight-year-old Hirvonen lies just four points from the lead in
the drivers' standings after top spot changed hands for the sixth time
this season in the thrilling title duel between the Ford driver and
Sébastien Loeb. This will be his fifth start in New Zealand, round 11 of
the 15-event series, his best result coming in 2006 when he finished
"The roads in New Zealand have a good rhythm to them and they are so
smooth that there's no need to worry about damaging the car on rocks,"
said Hirvonen. "The cambered corners encourage attacking driving but
it's important not to position the car on the wrong side of the camber
coming into a corner. If that happens then the car ends up sliding wide
or perhaps not even making it round at all.
"If the temperatures are cool and it is wet then hard compound tyres
will be far from easy. There is no choice in the matter. We will all
have to use that compound because those are the rules but I will need to
be very careful because it will be hard to get heat into the tyres in
those temperatures. It could be like the first stage in Argentina where
I took risks in similar conditions and was able to make a very fast time
– the alternative is that the risks don't work and the car goes off the
"The engine improvements on the new car that we debuted in Germany have
made a difference. The tight regulations mean it's not possible to make
big steps forward but the engine response has definitely improved.
Everything happens a little faster than it did so I hope that will
benefit us in New Zealand also. It's important to win rallies for our
title challenges but if I can't do that then I have to score as many
points as possible," added Hirvonen.
Latvala's best result from his three starts came last year when the
23-year-old finished fifth. "This is a rally that I enjoy and after my
disappointment in Germany earlier this month it will help to go to a
rally that I like and feel comfortable with. I prefer to go here now
than a tough, rocky rally like the Acropolis in Greece for example," he
"The countryside is beautiful and the roads are great. The surface is a
mix of sand and very smooth gravel which is hard packed so the
conditions are good and the cambered roads allow more speed to be
carried through the bends. There has been a lot of rain there so an
early start position is a benefit. Wet roads mean there will be no loose
gravel on top and I should be through the tests before the mud comes to
the surface and makes it really slippery for those further down the
start order," he added.
* As part of the sport's new regulations, BP Ford Abu Dhabi will have
just one tyre pattern from Pirelli. The Scorpion gravel tyre will be
available in hard compound only. Because anti-deflation mousse is also
outlawed this year, the Scorpion includes reinforced sidewalls to offer
increased protection against punctures. Teams are not allowed to
hand-carve additional cuts into the rubber and each car can carry two
* Four other Focus RS cars will start. François Duval / Patrick Pivato
will replace the injured Gigi Galli in the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford team
alongside Matthew Wilson / Scott Martin, while Federico Villagra / Jorge
Perez Companc and Henning Solberg / Cato Menkerud will drive for the
Munchi's Ford squad. Five Fiesta ST cars are also entered.
The scheduled itinerary was virtually identical to 2007, with only minor
alterations to two stages on the opening day and the removal of a short
test from the final leg. However, landslides have forced organisers to
split the monster 43.98km Waitomo test into two parts on the first day.
The rally is based at Hamilton, 130km south of Auckland and close to
North Island's west coast. The single service park is based at Mystery
Creek Events Centre, a few kilometres to the south. After a ceremonial
start in Hamilton on Thursday evening, the opening leg heads south-west.
The second leg is based north-west before the spectacular final day
which hugs the Tasman Sea coastline and includes a remote service zone
at Raglan. The highlight is two passes over the classic Whaanga Coast
test, with dramatic views over the ocean. Each leg includes a short test
at Mystery Creek, in view of the service park. There are 18 stages in
total, covering 353.04km in a route of 1218.20km.
Bron: M-Sport - Foto's: Focusmania.com
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