Skoda Motorsport continues unbroken points run. Toni Gardemeister finishes fifth; Didier Auriol eighth. Best team result of the season so far. The Å koda Motorsport World Rally Team enjoyed a superb result at the end of Rally New Zealand. Not...
Skoda Motorsport continues unbroken points run.
Toni Gardemeister finishes fifth; Didier Auriol eighth.
Best team result of the season so far.
The Škoda Motorsport World Rally Team enjoyed a superb result at the end of Rally New Zealand. Not only did the team maintain its record of scoring World Rally Championship manufacturer points on every event of this year's championship but both Škoda Octavia WRC drivers completed the 22 stages in the points for the overall drivers' championship as well.
The result promotes Toni Gardemeister to tenth in the drivers' series and brings the first points of the season for his team mate Didier Auriol.
Toni has had to show a mature side to his natural talent for flat out driving today. Having begun the final leg of the event with his sights firmly set on catching Freddy Loix his target disappeared when Loix crashed out of the rally on the second stage of the day. With a large gap ahead of him to Sebastien Loeb and with Alister McRae comfortably behind him, Toni had to make sure that he didn't make any mistakes by driving too fast for no purpose. "It is very much not my style to drive cautiously but it would have been stupid to drive at 110% per cent and risk this fantastic team result," he said. "It's been a strange rally and every day has been different. I had windscreen wiper problems on the first day, gained time on the second before losing it again with three punctures on one stage and then had a really good final day.
"I started today attacking hard but was then able to ease off and preserve my position. I feel very good about my driving at the moment. I joined Skoda very much as a junior driver but I'm pleased to discover that I can now compete fully at the highest level and this gives me a lot of confidence for the future."
Didier's day called on the Frenchman's vast reserves of experience as he fought hard to try and defend his overnight seventh position from Tommi Makinen. "The Octavia WRC has been working extremely well today and I could drive it to my maximum ability," he said. "I've had to take some big risks to try and keep Tommi behind me and I came very close to going off the road on today's second stage as a result. The stages today have been very slippery and it would have been easy to make a big mistake."
He took a narrow 6.9 seconds advantage into the final stage but cruel luck struck when the turbo pipe broke before the start and he had to accept eighth place instead of seventh at the finish. "Denis and I noticed something was wrong when smoke came into the cockpit," he said. "We feared the worst but when we opened the bonnet we saw what the problem was. We couldn't fix it and so just had to accept that we would lose time on the stage. I'm glad to have still scored my first points of the season but it's frustrating to look back and see just how much better this weekend could have been for us."
Škoda Motorsport team principal, Pavel Janeba reflected: "To collect six championship points from this difficult rally has made us all very happy although we know that it could have been even better. We are seeing consistent performances from the Octavia WRC that will be vital to maintain throughout the season. I'm especially pleased that we were equally as fast as, and often faster, than some of the established leading competitors and that is a major boost to our confidence."
Next World Championship Rally: Rally Argentina, May 9-11, 2003