“Oops, we did it again” Ford said after troubles in day 1 of Rally New Zealand saw them drop well behind the leading Citroëns of Sebastien Loeb and Mikko Hirvonen.
For Petter Solberg it was another case of taking wrong tyres to the longest loop of stages in the rally. Presumably he was told that conditions were fine for harder compound tyres, but since conditions in fact were not fine, Norwegian had to struggle and lose massive amounts of time.
It is still unclear who made the call and decided to use hards, but it seems it was a team effort – Solberg was very hesitant while talking to George Donaldson of WRC Live in service park after first loop. As he tried to fight his way out of the tricky question, Solberg said team had people on stage and they thought hard tyres should do well.
For Jari-Matti Latvala day one can be summarized by “Oh, well…”. Unlike Solberg, Latvala was on optimal tyres and was giving Citroëns a run for their money up until penultimate stage of the day.
“It was a combination left-right corner, but everyone had been cutting there so I went for the cut as well and the cars in front must have made a hole on the inside and the front-right wheel touched the hole and spun the car into a wire fence. The wire went into the front wheel and we couldn’t move anywhere. We had to wait until the farmer came with some side cutters but by that time I had lost four minutes,” said Latvala and added he feels his bid for 2012 World Rally Championship title is over.
I find it really hard to believe just how much bad luck can one team and one driver really have, because it is quite obvious now Jari-Matti really needs a tiny bit of luck on his side as well. Yes, most of his offs and disappointments have nothing to do with luck, but there are situations in which you feel he is just facing too many freak coincidences.
Ford’s demise was readily embraced by Evgeny Novikov, who is currently in third place, but is expected to be devoured by Solberg since only 8,3 seconds separates them.
Meanwhile, it’s business as usual in Citroën camp. Mikko Hirvonen was leading, then the lead went to Sebastien Loeb in final stages of the day. Of course, they will not use team orders, but they are still worried about Petter Solberg who is currently 4th and has one extra set of soft tyres left. And while Citroëns are free to race but must bring both cars home, Solberg is looking at the sky hoping for a monsoon.
But… it’s a long way still and two full days remain, so anything can still happen.