Tänak & Hyundai Control Rally New Zealand

Ott Tänak leads M-Sport Ford's Craig Breen to win Thursday night's opening speed test at Repco Rally. Tänak's Hyundai i20 N - pipped his Puma rival by a slender nine-tenths of a second through the 1.78km all-asphalt blast at Pukekawa Domain in Auckland. Tänak's teammate Thierry Neuville was a further seven-tenths behind after a spectacular opener which welcomed the FIA World Rally Championship back to New Zealand following a 10-year hiatus.

With cars running in gravel trim, damp conditions combined with shiny tarmac to hamper early runners, but Tänak, running 15th on the road, made the most of his superior traction as the surface gradually dried up. Fast sections intertwined tight and technical donuts and, while the Estonian driver admitted he wasn't too keen on the stage, there were no dramas to report.

A strong result for Tänak at this 11th round would take the title fight to the next round in Spain, even though he insisted, he's not thinking about the Championship. Toyotas accounted for the remaining top six with fourth-placed Takamoto Katsuta leading the Yaris charge 2.0sec off the pace. Elfyn Evans was another 0.2sec in arrears but held four-tenths in hand over Rovanperä, who had a sloppy run after misjudging the first donut. A flamboyant run secured seventh for Puma youngster Gus Greensmith, while Sébastien Ogier, Oliver Solberg and WRC2 leader Hayden Paddon completed the leaderboard.

The going gets tougher Friday with six classic stages on the Whaanga Coast and Waikato region roads near Te Akau, creating a hugely challenging opening leg that comprises more than half the rally's competitive distance. To make life even more difficult for competitors, there will be no opportunity for service, just a quick tyre change in Raglan will split the two loops of Whaanga Coast (29.27km), Te Akau South (31.02km) and Te Akau North (18.53km) during a relentless 15-hour day!

29th September, 2022