Didier Auriol in the top 10 for Å koda Motorsport Toni Gardemeister fights back after time penalty Problem-free day for both Octavias The Å koda Motorsport World Rally Team completed the opening day of Rally Argentina with Didier Auriol in tenth...
Didier Auriol in the top 10 for Škoda Motorsport
Toni Gardemeister fights back after time penalty
Problem-free day for both Octavias
The Škoda Motorsport World Rally Team completed the opening day of Rally Argentina with Didier Auriol in tenth position and Toni Gardemeister close behind in 11th. It was a trouble-free day for the Škoda Motorsport drivers who are both still on course to maintain Škoda's record of scoring points on every round of the 2003 World Rally Championship.
Didier has been totally motivated today and is extracting maximum performance out of the Octavia WRC. "We have been making changes to the shock absorber settings between stages to make sure that we always have the best chance to set good times," he said. "However I made a slight mistake doing this before one stage and had to drive with one side of the car stiffer than the other!"
He suffered a painful moment on SS8, however, when he hit a rock and damaged the Octavia's power steering. In the impact the steering wheel kicked back and hurt Didier's wrist so badly that, for the next five kilometres of the stage, co-driver Denis Giraudet had to operate the gearshift until Didier was able to take over. At the subsequent service point, Didier's personal trainer was called upon to try and ease the pain in his wrist but it slowed him over the final few stages of today's opening leg.
Toni has spent today's 11 stages trying to overcome the unfortunate one minute time penalty imposed by the stewards before the start of the rally. During the pre-event recce he had been forced to switch to a road car for two stages while a problem with his recce car was repaired. Unfortunately the team was unable to fit the official GPS unit to the car and without it he faced an inevitable penalty that cost him a place among the top six tonight.
Nevertheless, Toni has remained determined to get the best result possible in Argentina and has regularly set top 10 fastest times. "I am driving flat out as usual and everything has been perfect with the car," he said. "My only drama came when I hit a rock on SS6 that bent the front left wishbone and broke the anti-roll bar. The car handled a little strangely after that of course but I didn't lose too much time.
"We have put the penalty behind us," he added, "so that were are not under any extra pressure. All we can do is drive as fast as possible and try to make sure that we are in the points at the end of the rally."
Škoda Auto Director of Motorsport, Petr Kohoutek, said this evening: "I have been very impressed with the performance of both Škoda Motorsport drivers today. The Octavias have performed without problems all day and we are in a good position to make further progress tomorrow. The second leg is shorter than today's but it will be tougher and I think that the rally will be decided tomorrow. However, if our drivers continue to perform as well as they have done today then I am confident that we can finish the rally with a good result."
Tomorrow's second leg of the rally sees the action split into two distinct areas. The first six stages (three stages each repeated after the first service halt) take place to the north west of La Cumbre before the day's final trio of stages are located close to rally HQ at Villa Carlos Paz. The stages total 153.90kms.