Rally NZ recce only for Loeb
- 10th November 2006, 8:23am
Despite a 19,000 kilometre journey in between Belgium and New Zealand, the Kronos Total Citroën World Rally Team is looking forward to the Kiwi round. The complete team will be gathered for the first time since Cyprus and will be able to celebrate its heroes Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena, now three times World champions.
Seb and Daniel will be present in Hamilton, the rally’s new host city, to complete the reconnaissance of a rather changed route in the aim to prepare for next year. Once this is finished, Seb will return to Europe to the rehabilitation centre where he works on his full recovery.
For the rally, Kronos Total Citroën will once again entrust its young Spanish squad. Xevi Pons/Carlos Del Barrio and Dani Sordo/Marc Marti will drive in Hamilton in the same Xsaras they used in Australia.
After winning the event last year in Auckland, Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena have proved the Citroën team has understood this event's specific stages. The Kiwi gravel roads, which hug the gently rolling countryside, are for the most part wide and very smooth. On dry conditions, there's the notion of grip which is dependent on the amount of loose gravel there is on the surface, how much of this top coating has to be swept aside, and how damp it is.
There's also the nature of the roads themselves which are essentially a succession of corners which flow into each other. You also need to take into account the cambered profile of the stages; when the road turns from one direction to the other, this camber forms a sort of crest that the cars have to cross. All these subtle considerations have to be taken into account when looking for the most competitive set-up…"
However, the thrill of driving on the New Zealand stages is immense, in addition to being extremely popular with all the competitors. As a reference from the ‘old days’, Walter Rohrl can be quoted: "the only limiting factor in New Zealand is driver skill!".
More recently, Sébastien Loeb has particularly enjoyed the event since he first participated:
“I love the fast flowing roads; there are hardly any straights and there is a nice rhythm to the way the corners flow into each other”. Although Seb finds sliding on those roads feels great, he knows that you still need to keep it tidy and not slide too much not to loose time.
There is a limit to find, a ‘kiwi’ feeling maybe… And even if all special stages, except for two, were not competed in 2005 – which will put most drivers on an equal step – the eldest should find their marks more quickly. Xevi Pons has taken part in this round twice before with a Production car and this should give him a good basis for this year. Dani Sordo will once more have to discover an event. He has recently demonstrated in Turkey and Australia that he is able to set a valuable performance in such conditions.
The mission for the ‘Drivers’ title being accomplished since Australia, the Kronos Total Citroën WRT takes the start of the season’s penultimate rally without pressure. The team will give its very best for the thrilling fight in the ‘Manufacturers’ competition which might only end up on the ‘finale’ taking place in Wales next month.
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