World Champion says unexpectedly dry rally roads will hamper his charge.
World champion Sebastien Loeb says he’s facing the prospect of losing time to his rivals on the unexpectedly dry roads of the western Waikato as Repco Rally New Zealand starts this morning.
The Citroen C4 WRC driver leads the 2008 championship which gives him the prime starting position which is a disadvantage on dry roads.
Loeb says he discovered during the pre-event recce of the stages that despite weeks of rain the gravel surfaces are drying out.
And with the weather in the Waikato cool but gloriously fine this morning the stages won’t be wet, putting pressure on Loeb who will effectively act as a road “sweeper”, pushing aside loose stones from the road surfaces.
And that will give his rivals an edge as they’ll get a smoother, less slippery road surface to drive on.
“If it’s not raining it will be dry in the stages,” Loeb said last night.
“In this condition, there’s a lot of gravel and we saw a lot of gravel in the recce. We can lose a lot of time with that.
“I will start as fast as I can.”
Loeb’s key rival for the drivers’ title, Mikko Hirvonen, starts second in his Ford Focus RS WRC.
Then come Dani Sordo (Citroen), Chris Atkinson (Subaru Impreza WRC 2008), Jari-Matti Latvala (Ford), and Petter Solberg (Subaru).
The first New Zealand starter is NZ Rally Championship leader, Hayden Paddon, who starts his Team Green Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 twenty-eighth.
Paddon has been battling flu all week and missed the test day for drivers running in the production world championship section of the event. Paddon has a wild card PWRC seeding after winning a Repco scholarship.
The first stage, at Pirongia, southwest of Hamilton, starts at 9.18am. Log back in for regular Rally NZ updates.