* Strong start for Toni Gardemeister and Paavo Lukander * Skoda Octavia WRC shows its prowess in Sweden * Didier Auriol still running well after small excursion The Swedish Rally, the second round of the 2003 World Rally Championship, got off to...
* Strong start for Toni Gardemeister and Paavo Lukander
* Skoda Octavia WRC shows its prowess in Sweden
* Didier Auriol still running well after small excursion
The Swedish Rally, the second round of the 2003 World Rally Championship, got off to a flying start for Skoda Motorsport driver Toni Gardemeister, who quickly adapted to the difficult conditions. Toni finished the first stage in ninth position after his engine stalled a few times. He continued setting top times and climbed as high as fifth overall, before settling for sixth with two more stages to go.
"It is great fun and the car goes very well. The stages are quite quick and we are really flying," said the Finn. "It was a real pity that we had a small electric problem which made the engine cut out in the early stages. We looked under the bonnet, fiddled with some wires and that worked! Otherwise we would have been late for the time control." And he added: "My plan for tomorrow will be to defend this position rather than attack some more. Of course we will keep a close watch on the cars behind us..."
With very little snow testing to get used to his new Skoda Octavia WRC, Didier Auriol took things easy on the first stages. Still he went off on stage 3 with an unfortunate accident that left the French team stranded -- and facing the wrong direction. Together with his co-driver Denis Giraudet, the 1994 World Rally Champion managed to extract the car from the snow bank and eventually continued. Losing more than two minutes cost him dearly though, and he dropped to lower than 20th overall.
Yet Didier Auriol was happy with his Skoda Octavia WRC in the slippery conditions. "The car went really well. We made the right tyre choice considering the fact that we were among the first cars on the road."
Petr Kohoutek, Director of Motorsport at Skoda Auto, was not unhappy with the progress of his team: "Didier should have been much higher in the ranking, but for this one small mistake. But I am not worried. Toni is doing fine and everything is still possible."
Later in the evening, the Stewards of the Meeting decided to cancel stage 5 and neutralize the times of all competitors. On that stage Francois Duval blocked the road when his front suspension collapsed, causing huge delays for the cars that followed him on the road.
This decision does not influence the positions of Toni Gardemeister (6th) and Didier Auriol (23rd).