Solberg suffers reliability issues, Rovanperä dominates SS11

Solberg's Hyundai i20 N Rally1 dropped to three cylinders

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Any hopes Oliver Solberg had of retaking fifth place back from Takamoto Katsuta on Rally New Zealand took a severe knock on the first stage of Saturday afternoon as his Hyundai dropped to three cylinders.

Solberg had been 6.8 seconds ahead of Katsuta in sixth place heading into service but was promoted to fifth following Elfyn Evans’ retirement due to rollcage damage.

But he was then immediately dumped back into sixth when he – and his two Hyundai team-mates Thierry Neuville and Ott Tänak – were penalized for their hybrid units exceeding the boost limit for Friday’s final stage.

On balance Solberg has been quicker than Katsuta this weekend so it seemed that a fightback would be on, but some poor splits and a rather rough sounding i20 N Rally1 indicated that wouldn’t be the case.


“I had a misfire the whole way,” Solberg explained, “basically three cylinders the whole way.”

Solberg therefore lost 15.2s on SS11 to trail by 18.4s.

On his 22nd birthday, Rovanperä continues to lead the rally and looks set to claim his very first World Rally Championship title this weekend in New Zealand.

Despite feeling there was “a lot of standing water and surprises after every corner,” Rovanperä was a strong five seconds quicker than anybody else on Kaipara Hills 2 to extend his lead to 11.5s.

Sébastien Ogier, promoted to second after Tänak’s second hybrid overboost penalty of the weekend, strengthened his hold on the position after outpacing Tänak by 12.9s on SS11.

“The plan is to try and drive well but it’s difficult, there’s a lot of water so I also don’t want to go for full risk,” said Ogier.

“Elfyn is missing so for sure the team needs two cars at the end.”

Despite such a poor time, 17.9s slower than Rovanperä, Tänak said: “It’s all OK.”

Neuville remains fourth, one minute shy of the podium but also close to one minute clear of fifth place. His gearbox was changed in service after he lost third gear throughout the morning.