Stage data: SS9, Batley (17.61 kilometres)
By Hayden Paddon’s co-driver John Kennard: “Batley is quite different from any of the stages on day one but it is very characteristic of Saturday’s stages. We’re back into the country near Whangerai that has big camber changes and is a really fun stage where you can get into it. You can jump the camber and it is a heavily gravelled stage in some sections. But generally the road surface is in some of the best condition that we have seen it in for years.”
How the action unfolded:
Petter Solberg's recovery charge continued on the first stage of day two of Brother Rally New Zealand, as a stage win took the Ford World Rally Team driver past M-Sport's Evgeny Novikov into third place.
Whereas on Friday morning Solberg's peer-defying choice of hard tyres proved very costly, dropping him a minute and a half off the lead as rivals' softs proved far more suited to the conditions, his decision to start Saturday on softs while most used hards definitely paid off on Batley. Solberg admitted that if following stages were more dry, he might struggle, but was happy to have started the day strongly.
"The time is good. In some parts it was wet and damp, some very, very dry. So it will be a very tough loop," said Solberg. "We will see how it goes. We will push on. Our plan is the podium."
Solberg's time placed him 1.9 seconds ahead of erstwhile third-place man Novikov, who said he would not jeopardise his rally trying to fend the works car off.
"The plan was not to fight with Petter," Novikov declared. "Of course we can go a bit faster, because now we are driving at 95 per cent. If we go to 100 per cent we will take lots of risks and we don't want to do this. We don't want to make mistakes. Petter is a quick driver and he knows the roads very, very well."
At the front, Sebastien Loeb was able to stretch his rally lead over Citroen team-mate Mikko Hirvonen to 6.6s. The world champion is using soft tyres on the front and hard on the back of his Citroen DS3 WRC.
"Yesterday it was working well with this tyre choice. It was more a safety choice," said Loeb.
Citroen says it currently has no plans to impose team orders on its factory drivers, so Hirvonen said he was giving it everything to try and beat Loeb.
"We're going flat-out. Really pushing hard," said the Finn. "It seems to be very close. We'll keep trying, definitely.
"In every stage you try to be perfect, but one small mistake can cost you a few tenths of a second and you're just mad about it. Every second counts now."
Further back, the second factory Ford of Jari-Matti Latvala also made progress as the Finn moved up to eighth, ahead of Armindo Araujo's MINI, but next target Dani Sordo is over two minutes in front.