Å koda Motorsport drivers hit by running at head of the field Toni Gardemeister again sets top 10 stage time Fabia WRC crews still within sight of championship points The Å koda Motorsport World Rally Team has been thwarted in its bid to ...
Škoda Motorsport drivers hit by running at head of the field
Toni Gardemeister again sets top 10 stage time
Fabia WRC crews still within sight of championship points
The Škoda Motorsport World Rally Team has been thwarted in its bid to climb the leaderboard by its start position on today's second leg of Rally Australia. With Toni Gardemeister starting the day second on the road and Didier Auriol just four places further back, the effect of the famous 'ball-bearing' road surface has been dramatic.
Yesterday the 'cleaning' process wasn't so critical as the roads were still damp from the recent rain but today's stages have been a lot drier and therefore a major problem for those cars at the head of the field, including both Fabia WRCs.
Despite the problems, Toni was able to climb a place from 14th to 13th after just two stages today and on SS15 scored his second top 10 time of the rally when he brought the Fabia WRC to the finish in ninth place.
Toni said: "Yesterday afternoon I set the suspension harder to improve the Fabia WRC's stability but on this morning's faster stages it was too hard. The rear of the car was rather lively. Normally this isn't a problem as you can correct it with a quick steering movement but right now that isn't possible for me. This afternoon has been much better but I am still having to hold back a little and this is not normal for me!"
Toni has suffered no direct ill effects from his broken wrist and the extra strain on his left arm caused by driving much of the rally one-handed has been eased by the efforts of Škoda Motorsport World Rally Team physiotherapist Blanka Bastinová.
Didier was not so fortunate and lost his overnight 10th place but both Didier and the hard-charging Toni remain in contention for Manufacturers' Championship points at the end of today's eight forest stages in 12th and 13th positions respectively.
Didier said: "Today the roads have been very slippery with unpredictable grip. I had a huge moment on the first stage when I went off while totally committed in sixth gear. I was lucky that the damage wasn't too serious. We will adjust the ride height at the front tomorrow and that should make the car fly on the Bunnings stages."
Škoda Motorsport Team manager Pavel Janeba said: "We would love to be fighting for the podium positions but let's be realistic at this stage. We have had another valuable day and our engineers have continued to further develop the Fabia WRC. If the final day goes well we can still have the chance to score Manufacturers' Championship points."
With the forests behind them the cars are now returning to Perth for two runs over the Gloucester Park superspecial. This is the third and final visit of the rally to the purpose-built track and once again a capacity 10,000 crowd will witness the high-speed action before a spectacular firework display rounds off the evening.
Tomorrow's final leg is the shortest of the rally and is based around the town of North Bannister. It contains some of the most famous visual elements of the whole World Rally Championship. The day's four stages all take place within the Sotico Forest Plantation (formerly known as Bunnings) where crews will twice, on SS21 and SS23, tackle the spectacular sequence of jumps followed by the turn through the watersplash that have excited rally fans around the world. The leg features 117.11 stage kilometres, starting at 0700 and finishing at 1630.