Toni & Didi ready for last Octavia drive

From Skoda Press [ 19/06/2003 ].
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The Cyprus Rally, round seven of the 2003 FIA World Rally Championship and the halfway point in the series, takes the crews to the Mediterranean island where for the second event in succession drivers must cope with intense heat and rough gravel roads. The challenge is made more difficult by the character of the roads that are far more twisty than those in Greece. This means that speeds are low and there is only limited airflow over the cars ensuring the temperatures will rise beyond those of the Acropolis Rally. Also, with cars constantly accelerating out of tight corners, tyres and transmissions will be placed under extra strain.

At today’s final shakedown test near Stavrovouni, about 60kms from Rally HQ, the Škoda Motorsport Team carried out its final preparations for what will be the last event for the Octavia WRC before the new Fabia WRC debuts in Germany next month. Coming so soon after the Acropolis Rally there was little preparation to do for the Cyprus event as the rallies are so similar. Indeed, the Škoda Motorsport drivers carried out only a small number of runs over the test stage before declaring themselves happy with the set-up and ready to start the event.

Toni Gardemeister said: “I have made some small changes to the suspension, making it a little stiffer to cope with the bumpy roads. The second stage of the event is the longest and that will also make it the hardest. It is quite rough near the start so you must stay out of trouble there or you will have to drive a long way with a damaged car. Don’t forget that we also have to drive the same stage twice in the same day. The best stage is the final one, not because it means the end of the rally but because it is the smoothest and the one that flows best of all.”

The Škoda Motorsport Team’s other driver, Didier Auriol, is concentrating on keeping cool this weekend. “This is important for both the driver and the car,” he said. “For me I want to avoid a lot of movement inside the car and that way I can avoid getting too hot and also reduce the strain on the car as well. The secret of success here is to be as smooth as possible and keep the car flowing as much as you can.”

Škoda Motorsport Team engineer Dietmar Metrich added: “The Octavia WRC is now a familiar car to us so there is nothing to change for this event after Acropolis. The special challenge here in Cyprus is to cope with the higher temperatures and lower speeds. Last year the weather was colder and also wet so we must wait and see what happens in this year’s summer sunshine.”

The Cyprus Rally begins with a ceremonial start in Limassol this evening. Tomorrow’s first leg of the event features two special stages, each run twice and totalling 99.84km based around the service area at the port of Limassol.