Need tyres – the battle cry ahead of every round of the FIA World Rally Championship. Need tyres - but which ones? The Rally New Zealand again posed this vexing question; this time, though, immediately before the first of a total of 22 special stages. Incipient rain turned the decision-making process into a real gamble, with only a select few having a full hand.
An opening quartet of stages, but without interim service point – and thus the opportunity of correcting a decision – initially offered muddy going on the Kiwi rally’s gravel roads before conditions later dried out. The choice: hard rubber, durable enough to master the conditions to the end? Soft tyres? Better under slippery conditions, but less durable.
Dani Sordo in the MINI John Cooper Works WRC went for hard tyres. The logic: Lose a bit of time initially, then later – in the dry – more than make it up. However, the weather favoured the courageous six who had settled for softs, handing them the coup of the day as the slippery conditions became the talk, dominating Friday in New Zealand.
“The hard tyres were not a good decision,” rued Dani, whose disadvantage during the opening stages gradually grew to more than 1:50 minutes to net him seventh place overall. “On the muddy stages we had almost no grip, and our hopes for drier conditions were not granted.”
The gravel stages Te Hutewai and Whaanga Coast, plus the two Te Akau South and North tests, did not dry out until the afternoon passes, when they were run again as Stages five to eight with a total distance of over 100 kilometres. Tyre choice once again proved crucial, although all front-runners settled for the soft option.
However, although Dani was not alone in showing fighting spirit in the land of the Lord of the Rings, the performance of the trio of MINI crews was somewhat cloudy: Position 7 for Dani, with the extremely cheerful Armindo Araujo in eighth after delivering a superb performance to end the opening day right behind his fellow MINI competitor. “I am really happy after the first run of stages, the way the team worked together,” said Armindo. “They prepared a very good car. I am thoroughly enjoying this rally. It is going well for us, and I am looking forward to the days ahead.”
His team-mate in the WRC Team MINI Portugal, Paulo Nobre, ended the opening day on the Rally New Zealand in 20th
place. “In the afternoon the roads had been swept clean, but still offered the same fun,” related Paulo. “To drive a rally here is a great feeling.”
Day One offered an XXL dose: A total competitive distance of 209,60 was on Friday’s agenda, thus crews covered more than half the overall stage distance of 413,94 kilometres. Day Two starts with the ninth test, namely the Batley stage, at 09:13 local time (Friday, 23:13 CEST). Once gain the battle cry for all three MINI crews will be: Need tyres, the right ones.
Results after Day 1:
1. #1 S. Loeb, 2h 07m 35.0s
2. #2 M. Hirvonen +4.0s
3. #6 E. Novikov, +1m 31.0s
7. #37 D. Sordo +2m 34.3s
8. #12 A. Araujo +4m 36.9s
20. #14 P. Nobre +18m 00.5s
As always, further information on the MINI teams on the Rally New Zealand is available on Twitter.com/MINImotorsport and Facebook.com/MINImotorsport.
After a difficult start to the second day of the Rally Spain, Dani Sordo delivers a spectacular show for his fans with the MINI WRC.
The MINI Motorsport family is large and embraces the whole world. Find out more about the MINI Stars worldwide.
On the first day in Spain all teams fought off difficult weather conditions and challenging stages. While virtually every stage was marked by retirements, one MINI WRC driver kept his nerve.
Ultimate cornering, breathtaking acceleration.
Qualifying stage, autograph session, media conference, starting order draw and ceremonial start: The preliminaries for the Rallye Spain are over; all five MINI WRC Crews are raring to start the WRC finale.
A car built for victory. The MINI John Cooper Works Challenge races across the track at 240 km/h.
Experience MINI John Cooper Works.