A new challenge awaits Evgeny Novikov and Ott Tänak as the aspiring youngsters look to secure another strong result for the M-Sport Ford World Rally Team on the gravel tracks of the World Rally Championship’s (WRC) 500th event at Brother Rally New Zealand next week.
Despite a year’s break in the calendar, Rally New Zealand has been a regular and popular fixture in the world series since its inaugural inclusion in 1977 – securing the WRC Rally of the Year award in 2001.
Famed for its high-speed stretches, technical corners and picturesque scenery, the smooth gravel roads will pose a fresh challenge for Novikov, who has contested the southern hemisphere event only once before, and Tänak who will be making his first venture to the stages this year.
Based in the city of Auckland – home to a third of the New Zealand population – this year’s event will include two remote services as the rally takes in much of what the Isle of the Long White Cloud has to offer. Traditionally a loose-surface event, the occasional stretch of asphalt will provide some thrilling on-stage action; and with two special stages through Auckland’s city centre, rally fans and spectators the breadth of the country will have the opportunity to take in the action for themselves.
In the midst of winter, inclement weather conditions are sure to play a pivotal role. Teamed with the importance of road position, tactical tyre choices and a need for consistency, M-Sport’s young guns will need to adopt all of their experience and composure as they look to tame the cambered gravel roads which are renowned as some of the best in the world. Nevertheless with the fast, flowing nature of the New Zealand stages suiting both drivers’ attacking driving style, the duo will be out to impress.
Following a stunning start to the season, Novikov and co-driver Denis Giraudet will be looking to reignite their assault on the WRC Drivers’ and Co-drivers’ Championships. The young Russian has come into his own this season with a string of record results behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC which he will be eager to replicate next week.
Having contested Rally New Zealand as part of the Production World Rally Championship (P-WRC) with a Mitsubishi Lancer in 2008, Novikov was on course for a second place finish on his debut at the event until mechanical problems forced an untimely exit. Back for 2012, the 21-year-old will be keen to make the added power in his Fiesta RS WRC count as he looks to display what makes him one of the most exciting young talents in the WRC.
Recovering well from early misfortune at last month’s Acropolis Rally, Tänak will be hoping to make the most of his regained confidence in New Zealand. With the emphasis on experience, the Estonian will be aiming to complete all of the event’s 22 stages and secure the maximum benefit from the event. Yet given his obvious pace and ambition behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC, the youngster is sure to show his speed as he chases a strong points finish.
With fellow country-man Kuldar Sikk in the navigator’s seat, Tänak will be in good hands – Sikk securing fifth place overall on the 2008 edition of the event alongside another Estonian, Urmo Aava.
Evgeny Novikov said:
“I am feeling very good ahead of the rally and we are hoping that everything goes well. I have competed in New Zealand once before in 2008. It was a long time ago, but as I remember the stages are all really nice and very different from the others [in the championship].
“They are really fast which suits my driving style – they are really enjoyable to drive and you can drive to the maximum. We will have to see where our pace is when we get there, but the main thing for us will be to finish.”
Ott Tänak said:
“The feeling is good ahead of New Zealand. This will be my first time at the event, but I have heard that the stages are amongst some of the best in the season and I am very excited to compete there.
“The stages are mostly very fast and flowing. There are also very few rocks which makes it easier on the car and much easier for the drivers to drive as fast as they can – which I hope suits my driving style. We have had some good times on similar stages this year so the feeling is good.
“Having Kuldar [Sikk] in the car will also be an advantage as he has competed here twice before and it is always good to share in his experience. We will be looking for a good result, but first we need to find our pace and see how it compares to everyone else. We will try our best and hopefully get a good result for the team.”
- M-Sport youngsters ascend Argentine leaderboard
- Tactical battle awaits M-Sport’s young guns in Greece
- Australian adventure awaits as Stobart heads down under
- Algarve adventure awaits Ford’s pacy duo in Portugal
- M-Sport young guns ready for Mexican Fiesta
- Evgeny Novikov equals career best with M-Sport in Sweden
- Maximum attack sees M-Sport young guns recover points in Argentina
- M-Sport trio rewarded in Monte Carlo Rallye
- M-Sport young guns embark on Argentine endurance
- Speed and experience bring record result for M-Sport