Skoda Motorsport World Rally Team driver Toni Gardemeister and co-driver Paavo Lukander brought their Octavia WRC to the finish of the Rally of Turkey in an excellent 7th place overall. This result brought Toni two more points in the FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers, while Skoda Auto earned another three Manufacturers’ points which moves them up to fifth place in the table.
New to the World Championship this year, the Rally of Turkey consisted of eighteen punishing special stages, totalling 380 kilometres, in the Antalya region in the south of the country. To allow for as much preparation time at their factory in the Czech Republic, the team hired a freighter aircraft specially to transport the cars and spares from Prague to Turkey.
Prior to the start of the rally, Gardemeister and team-mate Didier Auriol took part in the ‘shakedown’ and were cautiously optimistic of their chances. Former Wolrd Champion Auriol commented, " Our biggest challenge is to stay on the road and not to make mistakes. The roads are extremely rough and there are big holes everywhere. If you hit one of the big stones, you might break a wheel which would put you out of the rally."
Unfortunately for Auriol, his rally would end prematurely near the end of the first day after his Octavia WRC’s engine succumbed to a problem with the water temperature. Having completed all the stages, it stopped on the way to the service area at Kremer.
No such dramas however for Gardemeister who, although he prefers the fast and flowing rallies, managed to avoid all the pitfalls to post the best result of the season so far. Before leaving the service area, Toni was already looking ahead to the next round of the Championship and said "Skoda Motorsport scored a ninth place in Monte Carlo, an eighth in Sweden and now a seventh here in Turkey. I am very much looking forward to New Zealand!"
The Rally of New Zealand is the fourth round of the FIA World Rally Championship and takes place between 9-13th April.Published 5 March 2003