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Just two weeks after the all-new Škoda Fabia WRC made its debut on the tarmac of the Rallye Deutschland, the car is back in action on the fast and flowing gravel roads of Finland (August 7 – 10).
The Fabia made a promising start to its World Championship career in Germany, underlining its potential for the future and accumulating yet more data which will be vital for the next stages of development.
But the ninth round of the World Rally Championship is a completely different proposition to the broken asphalt of Germany. The Rally Finland is all about maximum speed, flat-out jumps, and rollercoaster roads that require total commitment. Pace notes have to be spot on, as even the smallest mistake can result in a rapid accident. The event is characterised by blind crests, which can make cars leap as far as 50 metres. Škoda Motorsport was pleased with the results of the two pre-event tests, which saw both drivers working flat-out right up until the rally start.
Finland is one of the most spectacular rallies of the year, and one that Škoda Motorsport drivers Didier Auriol and Toni Gardemeister both love. Didier is one of only two drivers to have broken the Scandinavian monopoly on Rally Finland victories, winning the rally in 1992. He came home in second place in 1991 and 1994 and in third position in 1988 and 1993, and achieved a fourth place in 1998. For Toni it is his home event, his best achievement being sixth in 1996. With the Škoda Octavia WRC he finished 12th last year.
Didier: “I love Finland and I always have a good feeling with this event. But we have to be very realistic about our chances. There’s no reason why we can’t be successful with the Fabia WRC in the future, but for the moment we are still in the early stages of development. My objective is first of all to finish the rally, as this is essential to help us learn more about the car and gather extra information. Finland is a completely different type of rally and it will be interesting to see how the Fabia copes with this sort of challenge.”
Toni: “We have seen that we can have a very good future with the car on tarmac; now we will see where we are on gravel. I am quite optimistic – the car felt nice in testing and if a car goes well on tarmac, then it is normally good on gravel too. The more I drive the Fabia WRC, the more comfortable it feels but there is so much more still to come. Of course it’s always nice to drive on your home event: I get so much support from all the fans. I like the rally a lot, but my luck has been up and down there in the past. Let’s hope for some good things this year!”
Škoda Motorsport team principal Pavel Janeba: “It would have been nice to have had two cars at the finish in Germany, but maybe it was too much to hope that as the car is so new. Finland is a very different type of rally, so we are almost starting again. We must remain very patient and keep working hard. If we can match the performance we had in Germany, we will be happy.”
The Rally Finland gets underway on the evening of Thursday August 7, with a spectator superspecial on the trotting track at Killeri. The crews go on to tackle 22 more special stages over the next three days (totalling 403.34 special stage kilometres), including two runs over the event’s most famous special stage, Ouninpohja. The rally finishes at 1546 on Sunday August 10 in Jyvaskyla.
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