Rally of Great Britain: Skoda preview

Rain, mud, and fog another new challenge for Å koda Fabia WRC Å koda Motorsport drivers banking on British experience New tests prior to rally for best possible preparation The 2003 World Rally Championship concludes this weekend with the ...

Rain, mud, and fog another new challenge for Škoda Fabia WRC
Škoda Motorsport drivers banking on British experience
New tests prior to rally for best possible preparation

The 2003 World Rally Championship concludes this weekend with the Rally Great Britain, from November 7-9. The season-decider will be the focus of worldwide media attention, as no fewer than four drivers and two manufacturers head into the final round with a chance of becoming world champion.

For Škoda Motorsport, the challenge is to adapt the new Fabia WRC to the unique conditions of Great Britain, and give both cars the maximum opportunity to score points.

Škoda Motorsport driver and 1994 World Champion Didier Auriol will be competing in Britain for the 11th time, having won the rally in 1991. The Frenchman is hoping to use his vast experience to good effect in the treacherous forests.

"I have to be honest and say that this is not my favorite rally," said Didier. "The weather makes life extremely difficult and the worst thing is the fog: sometimes you cannot see a thing. Having said that, my speed has always been quite good in Great Britain. The last time I competed on the event was in 2001, and most of my stage times were not far off the winner. It's a very quick rally where you have to be really committed. It's also very difficult to judge the levels of grip."

Up-and-coming Finn Toni Gardemeister has already competed in Britain five times, and he finished 10th with Škoda Motorsport last year. He has also driven on the British Rally Championship in the past, so he has some experience of what to expect.

"The roads we used on the British Championship were not always similar to the stages we will find in Wales," said Toni. "However, my experience certainly gives me an idea of the character of rallying in Britain. I really like it. The weather is nearly always bad, but we tend to go very well in bad weather -- especially fog. The roads are extremely tricky on this rally so there are often a lot of retirements, which I hope we can take advantage of. I think it's certainly possible for us to score some points."

Škoda Motorsport has carried out some testing in the Czech Republic under conditions which are similar to those found in Britain, but everybody in the team is aware that Rally Great Britain will be yet another new challenge for the Fabia WRC.

Director of Škoda Motorsport Peter Kohoutek commented: "It's almost impossible to predict what our chances might be on this rally, as it is very different to anything else we have tried before. When we competed in Australia, for example, we were able to use the settings we had established in Finland, but in Britain we are starting from scratch. Hopefully the testing in the Czech Republic last week will help us in Britain."

Rally Great Britain is based in Cardiff and characterised by wet and wintry weather. Rain, fog and even ice are quite usual in the Welsh forests during November, and the road surfaces are typically muddy and slippery. Despite this, average speeds in Britain are amongst the highest of the championship, which makes the rally notoriously difficult. As the surfaces deteriorate deep ruts can form along the road: which have caused some spectacular accidents in the past. The Rally Great Britain tends to favour local specialists: six out of the last 10 wins there have been taken by British drivers.

The event gets underway with a spectator superspecial stage in Cardiff on the evening of Thursday November 6. Drivers will tackle a total of 376 competitive kilometres before the finish back in Cardiff on Sunday afternoon.


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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Didier Auriol , Toni Gardemeister