Atkinson leads after drama filled day in New Caledonia

The Rally of New Caledonia as always is an event of extremes and today was no exception. Weather played its part with hot sunny skies turning to tropical down-pours in the afternoon, while  punctures and mechanical issues delayed or forced retirement.

MRF’s Chris Atkinson is the driver in front but even he had problems, a two minute lead was cut to just 40 seconds by a puncture in the final section of stages.

The Australian heads his team-mate Gaurav Gill who spent most of the day trying to get his Skoda to drive in a straight-line  – a wheel-alignment  problem caused by yesterday’s puncture.

Skoda’s problems were small in comparison to Proton. PG Andersson lost his lead in the first set of stages when his engine mysteriously cut-out and then in the second and third set  of stages,  the engine gradually lost power and the Swede was forced to ‘drive to survive’ just to get the Proton back to final survive.

The MEM crew fitted a new head gasket in record time to keep Andersson in the event and with a chance of getting third place points.

The Swedish driver will have to catch Mitsubishi driver Brian Green and with only 75 kilometres of stage it could be difficult to make up the difference.

Green survived his own dramas, loosing over 5 minutes with a puncture but otherwise is using all his experience of the New Caledonian roads to deserve his current third overall position.

Water-crossings caused problems for several drivers one of those being Jean-Louis Leyraud whose Citroen DS3 stopped in one of the deep fords. “Maybe they don’t have fords like this in France”, joked Leyraud back at service. The damage was not terminal and Leyruad will re-start on Sunday’s Leg 2 .

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