Greece lives up to its tough reputation Didier Auriol in eighth place for Å koda Motorsport Toni Gardemeister forced to retire after turbo problem The Å koda Motorsport World Rally Team enjoyed mixed fortunes on the opening day of the Acropolis...
Greece lives up to its tough reputation
Didier Auriol in eighth place for Škoda Motorsport
Toni Gardemeister forced to retire after turbo problem
The Škoda Motorsport World Rally Team enjoyed mixed fortunes on the opening day of the Acropolis Rally. Didier Auriol completed the seven stages (SS8 cancelled) in eighth position but Toni Gardemeister was forced to retire at the end of the longest stage of the event.
Although disappointed to lose one car, the Škoda Motorsport Team remains dedicated to its target of scoring points on every round of the 2003 World Rally Championship.
Didier has enjoyed a largely trouble-free day and has again shown the rough-road capabilities of the Octavia WRC, most notably on today's second stage when he set sixth fastest time and eighth on the longest stage of the rally plus two other top 10 times. "There has been some cleaning of the stages which has helped us to set good times," he said. "The tyres and suspension settings are working very well together."
The damaging nature of the roads in Greece was evident for all to see, however, when the mechanics removed a very battered sump guard from the car. They discovered that, despite this vital protection, the sump pan had been damaged by a particularly large rock and so they carried out a routine replacement. "I've been trying to find clean lines as much as I can," said Didier, "but sometimes you just have to drive over the rocks and hope for the best! That's why it's good to have a strong car like the Octavia."
Toni also managed to set a time within the top 10 on SS4 despite a strange handling characteristic that made the car turn into right-hand bends better than left. The problem was traced to some damage hidden inside a front shock absorber. "You could see nothing from the outside to suggest anything was wrong," he explained. "However, on the first piece of smooth road we noticed that the car would dip at the front right and we realised what the problem was. It made me happy to know that there was a simple solution but unfortunately we didn't reach service to fix it."
With about eight kilometres to go before the finish of SS5, Elatia-Zeli 1, Toni felt the power drop as the Octavia suffered a rare and unexpected turbo failure. He completed the stage with only two minutes time loss but after 40kms of the road section back to service the engine lost oil pressure and Toni had no choice but to retire.
"Obviously it's disappointing to not finish the event," he said. "I was happy with the overall performance again and was confident that, now we had found the solution to the handling problem we could start to climb the leaderboard."
Toni will now take a couple of days' break before he resumes testing with the Fabia WRC in Italy next week as the Škoda Motorsport Team prepares for its debut with the car at the Rally of Germany next month.
Škoda Auto Director of Motorsport, Petr Kohoutek, said this evening: "It is a shame that we lost Toni today as we were looking very strong to have both cars in the points once again. These things happen in rallying, of course, and now we must concentrate to make sure that Didier maintains his position for the next two days. It will be tough because this is a rally when anything can happen to any of the leading drivers but tonight we can celebrate the fact that Didier is placed ahead of the World Championship leader."
Tomorrow's second leg of the rally takes the crews south from Lamia, over the mountains to the coastal resort of Itea. The day's eight stages include a second visit to Elatia-Zeli, at 34.68kms the longest stage of the event, and two runs over an Acropolis Rally classic, the 23.45kms Bauxites stage. There are a total of 148.71kms scheduled, making this the longest day of the rally starting at 0600 and finishing at 1955.