Å koda Motorsport Team driver Didier Auriol got off to a flying start on the Catalunya Rally, his 150th World Rally Championship event, when he set tenth fastest time over the opening stage of La Trona. Unfortunately Didierâ€™s luck did not hold...
Škoda Motorsport Team driver Didier Auriol got off to a flying start on the Catalunya Rally, his 150th World Rally Championship event, when he set tenth fastest time over the opening stage of La Trona. Unfortunately Didier’s luck did not hold out, leaving team mate Toni Gardemeister to lead the way in 13th position tonight while Didier finished two places behind.
It was a difficult start to the event as early morning temperatures were barely above zero and the roads were treacherous. Didier slipped back on the third stage after cutting a corner too much and breaking the front left wheel rim and he had to nurse the car the remaining eight kilometres to the finish. There was more bad luck when, for the whole of this afternoon’s final group of three stages, he had to drive with a damaged turbo waste gate valve that cost a lot of time.
Didier said: “It really wasn’t a nice day at all after a promising start. The problem on the third stage was because I cut a corner. I felt a thump at the front of the car and I realised that I had broken the rim so I had to drive carefully to get the car to the end of the stage without more damage. The turbo problem meant I was driving with smoke and exhaust gasses leaking into the cockpit which is not a pleasant experience.“
Toni Gardemeister found this morning’s stages less to his liking than Didier as the conditions made the handling of the Škoda Fabia WRC inconsistent. Despite this both drivers were able to set times that were again closer to the established asphalt experts than in the past.
Toni said: “This morning the car was unbalanced and did not give me confidence to drive flat out on the damp roads. We changed the suspension settings and that got the car back to how it was in Corsica.“
Director of Škoda Motorsport Petr Kohoutek said: “The positive news from today is that we have confirmed the improvements made to the car in Corsica. However, we have also had a lot of bad luck that has meant our overall position tonight does not accurately reflect those improvements.“
This year’s rally has adopted a more compact route than before and is contained totally within the Vic area. It no longer includes the abrasive roads in the Tarragona region to the west of Barcelona enjoyed by most drivers on the second day. Tomorrow’s action sees only a marginally reduced stage distance to today’s, totalling 131.26kms. Three new stages in the morning are repeated in the afternoon after a second visit to Taradell and the famous Sant Julià stage that crosses both over and under the C25 motorway.