Skoda Fabia WRC entertains huge crowds on gravel debut Toni Gardemeister sets eighth fastest time on SS8 Didier Auriol forced to withdraw before today's restart Typically large numbers of enthusiastic Finns gathered in the forests to witness the...
Skoda Fabia WRC entertains huge crowds on gravel debut
Toni Gardemeister sets eighth fastest time on SS8
Didier Auriol forced to withdraw before today's restart
Typically large numbers of enthusiastic Finns gathered in the forests to witness the Škoda Motorsport World Rally Team's Fabia WRC make its gravel debut on Rally Finland. Last night around 20,000 cheered their heroes at the curtain-raising superspecial and the forests were packed today for the start of the 'real' action.
At the end of the first leg's nine stages, Toni Gardemeister is 12th overall after setting eighth fastest time on SS8, Jukojärvi, to again show the performance potential of the new car.
Once again Škoda Motorsport has concentrated on gaining vital data about the performance of the new car. Rally Finland is only its second event and the first on gravel so many things have been tried in competition to see how they work.
Toni spent a large part of today adjusting suspension settings. "On the first two stages this morning I felt that the car was too soft but when I changed the settings I made them too hard for this afternoon. This is all part of learning about the car and it adds to our knowledge," he said.
This morning's stages were run in dry conditions but this afternoon the weather changed and became wet. This was especially tricky on SS7, Ruuhimaki, where the rain became very heavy just as Toni started the stage -- with its famous sequence of jumps near the finish -- and stopped as soon as he reached the end.
"Generally I have been happy with the car today," said Toni. "When the roads were slippery it wasn't so easy to find traction because I didn't get my tyre choices absolutely correct but the balance of the car has been very good as usual. SS8 was a very technical stage and that is the perfect type of road to show the Fabia WRC at its best right now. When you need to be very precise, the car's balance really shows well."
Didier Auriol withdrew from Rally Finland this morning. The French driver, one of only two non-Scandinavians to have won this event, has a badly inflamed tendon in his left shoulder and bravely contested last night's Killeri superspecial in considerable pain. There was no improvement this morning so the decision was made not to take this morning's restart because to do so would have been unsafe as he could not control the car fully on this highly specialised event.
Didier flew home to France this morning to begin treatment with his own doctors and is expected to be fully fit for Rally Australia next month.
Škoda Auto Director of Motorsport Petr Kohoutek said today: "We are gathering a lot of information about the Fabia WRC that will be important for the future. We have already seen how much more familiar the mechanics are with the car and how much easier and quickly components can be changed. I am happy that everything is functioning as we expected during our first day competing on gravel and hopefully we can continue tomorrow and Sunday the same way as we have today."
Tomorrow's second leg is the longest of the rally and it takes the crews to some of the most spectacular stages of the event. Included in the schedule are two visits to the famous Ouninpohja stage, regarded by many drivers as a 'signature' stage of the rally. The day's seven tests also include the return of the Urria stage (and the biggest jump of the event) for the first time since 1987. There are a total of 167.92 stage kilometres scheduled, starting at 0600 and finishing at 1948.