Mason’s Subaru didn’t miss a beat on the three dirt roads or the two runs through the Tweed stage which concluded the day one action.
“It’s been a great day,” said the leader. “And the good news is that we’re not just leading Production, but we’re also leading the main Group N as well. We’ve had a great time today. We’ve been leading Group N on a world championship round at home in New Zealand before, but it’s fantastic to do it on these roads where we have never been before. The car has been great today, now we’ve got to focus on staying ahead.”
Prokop moved up into second place on the day’s final stage, having narrowed the gap with fastest times on stages 12 and 13 this afternoon. Prokop ends the day 15.3 seconds off the lead. Prokop said: “The team worked really hard on the car. We have more power from the car, so we’ve spent the afternoon trying to get the time back we lost this morning. We’ll have another push tomorrow.”
Prokop ended day one with the smallest possible advantage over Bernardo Sousa, who was enjoying his best day ever in the Abarth Grande Punto. “It’s been really slippery today,” he said. “I’ve just been trying to keep the car on the road. The car has worked well.”
Cody Crocker was fourth in P-WRC, but very much in touch with the lead fight. Sousa was just one tenth of a second behind Prokop and Crocker was the same distance behind the Abarth.
Championship aspirant Armindo Araujo held fifth place at the end of the opening day, his Mitsubishi benefiting from a mid-day change of turbo. “This is the first day of the rally, everything is still possible in this event,” said Araujo.
The good news for Araujo was that one of his championship challengers, Eyvind Brynildsen was forced to retire his Mitsubishi from day one with gearbox failure.
Photo Credit: Geoff Ridder
From Hayden Paddon
Todays opening leg of Rally Australia has been a great day for us. I am pleased to report that we have come away with the most points in the Pirelli Star Driver Scholarship. However, the scholarship is based on more than just speed, with the panel assessing all facets of the drivers, so we will not know their confirmed decision until the morning.
The car has felt great all day and, bar one bad stage, we have been competitive amongst all the Production World Rally Teams. In fact, we were the fastest PWRC team on the first 3 stages of the day. These were nice, fast, flowing stages that I really enjoyed. Unfortunately the fourth, stage 6, was cancelled when local protestors blocked the road. The remaining 3 stages of the morning were a lot twistier, quite similar to the roads in the north of New Zealand. Stage 8 and 9 went well, but stage 7 was a bit different to anything I have driven on before.
On recce the stage looked like a general hard base forestry track, but when we arrived at it today the cars in front had chewed up the surface into Australian bull dust, which was loose and very, very slippery. Instead of having a hard base underneath that we could lean on, the dust kept moving under the tyres creating a lot of oversteer.
Despite this, we still arrived at service as the leading PWRC car, 7.8 seconds ahead.
The afternoon consisted of repeats of the same 3 tighter stages and 2 more runs around the Super Special stage. After we made some small diff map changes at service, the car was much nicer to drive and we set competitive times in all 3 proper stages. We knew that we might loose a little time in the tighter stages this afternoon, but we are still 2nd PWRC team, 2.6 seconds behind the leader, fellow New Zealander Richard Mason. It is all very close though, with 4-5 European and Australian teams not far behind.
I am looking forward to tomorrow, with another 10 stages that are mainly fast, similar to the first few stages we did this morning. We have always preferred faster roads, so I feel tomorrows will be to our liking. With the PSD competition over, we can now concentrate on the rest of the rally and staying out in front of the PWRC teams.
We all arrived back to the unit at about 9.00pm, after a 5.00am start.
Tonight John and I will go through tomorrows pace notes, before another 5.00am start.
I will keep you all updated on the PSD result and the next 10 stages as soon as I can tomorrow. Thanks everyone; I cannot wait to hit the gravel again early tomorrow morning.