World championship points leader has shrugged off the effects of influenza to lead Rally of NZ.
August 31, 2007, 3.15pm. Heading into Special Stage 3 of the Rally of New Zealand, Marcus Gronholm (Ford Focus RS) leads Citroen’s Sebastien Loeb by 14.8 seconds, with Mikko Hirvonen (Ford) third.
Gronholm is suffering from the flu, but says he’s being helped by running first on the road – usually the worst place to be on a gravel rally where the first car sweeps the surface of loose gravel.
But it’s drizzling and the roads are wet and the loose surface had bonded, providing Gronholm with roads that offered better grip.
“It helped being first on the road in these conditions and my tyre choice was perfect,” he said.
“I don’t feel 100 percent and that long stage (SS2) left me feeling more tired than it normally would. The plan was to attack hard this morning and it paid off.”
Richard Mason (Subaru Impreza WRX STi) is the best-placed New Zealander, in 15th place. He holds the NZ Championship section lead and is third in the production world rally series class, despite losing an estimated 10 to 12 seconds with a spin at the end of SS2.
Dean Sumner (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8) is second Kiwi, almost a minute down on Mason.
Sam Murray is third in his WRX.
NZ series leader Hayden Paddon is out of the rally, with a broken gearbox in his Evo 8. He will re-start tomorrow morning.
Mark Tapper leads the Ford Fiesta Challenge section of the NZ series, by a minute.
Newsflash: Loeb has won SS3, slicing six-tenths of a second off Gronholm’s lead.