Six out of eight stage wins helped Ligato carve a 1m40.1s lead over Sweden’s Ramona Karlsson. Karlsson and co-driver Miriam Walfridsson - the only all-female duo competing in New Zealand - proved their ability behind the wheel of a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X to snatch the remaining two fastest stage times.
“Everything is finally going okay for us,” said Ligato at the end of day one. “We’ve had a lot of problems on the first two rallies this year, and everything finally seems to be going better with the car. Certainly, there is still a long way to go but if we keep going like this then we should be able to keep hold of our lead.”
Despite losing time on the opening loop due to a turbo problem on his Lancer Evolution IX, Valeriy Gorban holds third. With current series leader Benito Guerra not nominating the fifth round of this year’s PWRC as one of scoring events, Gorban will be eager to hold onto a podium position in order to close in on Guerra in the championship standings.
Ricardo Trivino reported problems with the engine of his Mitsibushi Lancer Evo IX throughout today, but the Mexican driver is fourth going into day two, albeit more than five minutes behind the leader.
Rounding out the top five is Oleksii Kikireshko in another Mitsubishi, 46.1s behind Trivino. Subhan Aska is sixth in a similar car with Gianluca Linari lying seventh at the wheel of his Impreza.
Briton Louise Cook is eighth after battling through today’s eight stages in a Ford Fiesta ST with a heavy cold.
“Today has been okay, we’ve just been trying to learn the pacenotes and learn the new car as it is totally different from my own,” explained 25-year-old Cook. “I’ve got a bad cold as well, so today has just been about getting through the stages and hopefully I’ll feel better tomorrow.”
Italian Lorenzo Bertelli was forced to retire on stage four.