Stage data: SS2, Brother Whaanga Coast 1 (29.67 kilometres)
By Hayden Paddon’s co-driver John Kennard: “Whaanga Coast is our nemesis stage, or certainly has been in the past. It’s usually a stage that is on the last day of the rally so it’s tended to be a sting in the tail but on this occasion it’s at the beginning of the event and will still be just as hard. It’s definitely a stage of two halves, the first half is fast, open and quite heavily gravelled in places this year. The second half is really, really twisty, and just a completely different stage so it’s a case of resetting your mind at the end of the first section and almost like you are starting a new stage for the second section.”
How the action unfolded:
Mikko Hirvonen surged into the Brother Rally New Zealand lead on stage two, Whaanga Coast, as road conditions turned in Citroen's favour after Ford driver Jari-Matti Latvala's stage one win.
While Latvala chose to run at the tail of the World Rally Car field in the day one starting order, the Citroens and the second Ford of Petter Solberg are all early in the running order, having anticipated rain.
Although everything had gone Latvala's way on stage one, Whaanga Coast brought more dampness and mud, and that meant first man on the road Hirvonen was able to stretch out a 10.9-second lead over Citroen team-mate Sebastien Loeb and 11.5s over erstwhile leader Latvala - despite not being entirely happy with the stage.
"There was a lot more loose gravel on the road than in the recce," said Hirvonen. "There was so much of that now in the fast section."
Loeb, third on the road, reported that the surface was already getting more difficult in Hirvonen's wake.
"For sure we need the soft tyre in the morning, it's getting very muddy," said Loeb. "Mikko was 10s faster than me and part of that was because he's first on the road and it's getting muddy behind. I've done a good stage, it's OK."
Thierry Neuville remains fourth in the Qatar World Rally Team Citroen DS3 WRC, followed by M-Sport Ford pair Evgeny Novikov and Ott Tanak, who are separated by just 0.7s.
Solberg continues to struggle on his hard tyres in seventh, with eighth-placed Prodrive WRC Team Mini driver Dani Sordo in similar difficulties and also still troubled by gear selection gremlins.