Sandell aims for the top at the bottom of the world
Patrik Sandell, one of Red Bull's athletes on the World Rally Championship, is hoping to come out on top of the Super 2000 classification as the series heads to the bottom of the world in New Zealand.
The Swedish driver,
at the wheel of a Skoda Fabia S2000 run by the BRR team, is looking forward to the fast and flowing gravel stages of New Zealand - where he has previously competed in 2008, finishing an excellent 11th overall in a Group N car.
Currently Patrik is fifth in the Super 2000 World Rally Championship classification, having finished fourth in Sweden and fifth in Jordan. On his third rally of the year, Patrik is hoping for a top result on an event that he loves.
The recent air travel disruption caused by the Icelandic volcano has meant that Patrik's car is arriving in New Zealand slightly later than expecting, so he will not get the opportunity to test his Skoda before the start. But the 28-year-old Swede is not concerned by this minor setback:
"The first time that I drive the car in New Zealand will actually be on asphalt, because the shakedown is on asphalt while the rally is on gravel!" said Patrik. "I'm not worried though: I know the capabilities of the Skoda car on gravel very well. We've not done any testing since Jordan, but the team has a lot of information about Rally New Zealand from the past so this will help us too."
While the start of the season has not gone exactly how Patrik would have hoped, the Swede is convinced that most of the bad luck is behind him for this year.
"Things haven't gone quite our way so far but that's not because I've been driving badly," Patrik pointed out. "We've still got lots of points and I'm not putting myself under any extra pressure: if you do that, you can't drive fast. I will go to New Zealand, try to find the right rhythm and try to get 25 points, which of course is my aim for all the rallies I do."
Patrik is certainly well prepared for his latest challenge, as since the Jordan Rally he has been keeping match fit in his Group N practice car, keeping his body fit with a strict regime of physical training, and he even found time to compete in a 26-kilometre cross-country ski race!
Preparing the car is the responsibility of multiple Austrian Champion Raimund Baumschlager, who heads up the BRR team. He too has a fair idea of what to expect from the trip to New Zealand.
"I think it should be a rally that suits Patrik's style," said Raimund. "He's been very unlucky so far this year, but we've already had one good bit of luck for New Zealand - which is that we have the car there on time! Following the travel chaos recently it was looking doubtful for a little while. But now Patrik will definitely get to enjoy some of the most spectacular stages in the world, so we are all looking forward to a great weekend."
Rally New Zealand gets underway with a ceremonial start on Thursday night in Auckland, prior to 21 stages totalling 396.50 competitive kilometres. The rally is due to finish back in Auckland, home to around a third of the country's population, on Sunday afternoon.