Mitsubishi's Gigi Galli surprised many by setting the quickest time in the shakedown session ahead of this weekend's Rally New Zealand on Thursday. Meanwhile, Ford driver Roman Kresta crashed out of the event after rolling his Focus RS WRC on the pre-rally stage.
Mitsubishi's Gigi Galli surprised many by setting the quickest time in the shakedown session ahead of this weekend's Rally New Zealand on Thursday. Meanwhile, Ford driver Roman Kresta crashed out of the event after rolling his Focus RS WRC on the pre-rally event.
Kresta misjudged his speed on a sixth-gear, 120 km/h right-hand bend and clipped the bank, sending his Focus into a series of rolls on the Wearmouth Road stage, near the Paparoa service park. Both the Czech and co-driver Jan Mozny escaped unhurt.
The Ford Rallye Sport attempted to repair the car, but was forced to withdraw the car on safety grounds.
"The roll cage was damaged in the impact and there was also considerable damage to the front left chassis and the rear right of the car," said team boss Malcolm Wilson. "We don't have the time to make repairs her and there is no way the car could compete. It's a big disappointment to lose Roman before the start and there is nobody more disappointed than he is."
Kresta admitted the accident was caused by driver error: "It was very fast on the stage. I came round the corner and had the sun in my eyes. There were maybe four or five rolls. I'm okay, but the car is destroyed. Now I just have to put it behind me. It won't be easy, but I'm a positive person - I just have to look forward to Sardinia. All drivers make mistakes, but I still feeling disappoint."
Mitsubishi's Harri Rovanpera suffered moderate damage to his suspension after hitting a fence post, but the Mitsubishi mechanics should be able to repair the car in time for tomorrow's start.
Although, current championship leader Petter Solberg topped the times midway through the session, the Subaru ace was pipped at the last minute by Rovenpera's team-mate Gigi Galli, who had previously only done five stages in New Zealand - at the wheel of a Group N car.
"I'm surprised by my time," Galli said. "There were no problems. I was just trying to keep it tidy. Maybe it's because I bribed the marshals!"
Peugeot's Marcus Gronholm was third fastest ahead of Solberg's Subaru team-mate, young Australian Chris Atkinson.
Toni Gardemeister was the top Ford driver in fifth, ahead of Peugeot's Markko Martin and Citroën privateer Manfred Stohl, who edged out works drivers Francois Duval and Sébastien Loeb. Rovanpera rounded out the top 10.