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GP Week : Issue 25
>> WRC InSIGHT disadvantage for drivers who have not been to the event before, and also bad news for photographers, always seeking fresh locations in this spectacular country. The special nature of the roads gives the event its character. Not only do the stones clear away with each pass, but the cars leave specific lines on the road, which strongly contrast in grip with the remaining gravel. And this will give the front runners Loeb and Hirvonen a special challenge. New Zealand was the first World Championship venue on the Australasian continent, starting some 12 years before Rally Australia was born. It is an event of quite unique character not only for drivers but also for its history. The event began as a six-day event, the longest special stage rally in the history of the series, in which the winning time was over 24 hours. Surprising results are not unknown. In 1993, NZ became the first World Championship event to be won by the late Colin McRae, while the inaugural rally in 1977 was the one and only victory for the Fiat team driver Fulvio Bacchelli. There have often been dramatic moments. In 1983 the officials excluded Stig Blomqvist in middle of the event, on account of the fact that they should never have accepted his late entry and allow him to start. He had his revenge by winning the event the next year. In 1991 a boat delivering many cars was so badly delayed en route to New Zealand that it just arrived in time and organisers had to scrutineer the cars after the event had started. Traditions continue. In 2007, Gronholm’s 0.3 second victory over Sebastien Loeb was the closest win on a special stage World Championship rally. The weather is enigmatic. After months with little or no rain, which caused power shortages in the country, there have now been weeks of rain. An earth slip has caused the Waitomo stage (stages 2/4) to be split in the middle, so now there will be 18, not 16, stages, and this has involved a change of stage numbers for all except two of the stages. There will be a ceremonial start downtown in the rally headquarters city of Hamilton, and the competitive action starts on the Friday morning. Chris Atkinson, Rally New Zealand 2005 47