Toni scores points on Mitsu debut

Toni scores points on Mitsu debutFrom Mitsubishi Press [ 21/01/2007 ].
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Finnish driver Toni Gardemeister made his debut in a Mitsubishi Lancer WRC on this week's Monte Carlo Rally. Despite his inexperience of the car – he only drove it for 90 kilometers before the start – he spent much of the event challenging for fourth position. Unfortunately for Gardemeister and co-driver Jakke Honkanen, they slipped down the order on Saturday's third leg, eventually ending the event in seventh position.

Gardemeister was delighted with the performance of the Mitsubishi Lancer WRC, and posted top six times regularly throughout the opening round of this year's FIA World Rally Championship, which was based in Valence, rather than the principality of Monaco. The event had undergone extensive changes, the main one being the move to the Ardeche region, 400 kilometers north of Alpes-Maritimes, the traditional home of the rally. The event did visit Monte Carlo, when the competitors tackled the lower half of the world famous grand prix circuit this morning.

Gardemeister said: "I have enjoyed this event. The Mitsubishi has been very good for me. The car ran without any problems through the rally. It took me some time to get used to the Mitsubishi as I hadn't competed in it before, but it was very stable and nice to drive. We had a small brake problem in some of the faster stages. I'm not sure what was the cause, but it was not a technical problem with the brakes."

"The fight for fourth place was very hard, everybody was pushing to the limit. 
I usually go well in the changeable conditions, which are usually typical of this rally, but this time the weather was not quite so normal. We had some damp stages, but there was no snow at all, which wasn't really like the normal Monte Carlo."

Gardemeister's team-mate Xevi Pons damaged the transmission on the first stage on Friday morning, forcing him to continue in the event under the Superally regulations, which dropped the Spaniard's Mitsubishi Lancer WRC down the field to 25th at the end.

There was more success for Mitsubishi in the Group N category, where the Lancer Evolution IXs of Richard Frau and Jean-Paul Ayme clinched the second and third podium spots in a typically hard-fought battle for production glory.

"It was a strange Monte Carlo," said Frau. "The weather was always so warm, it was odd for this event. I didn't have the right set-up in the front differential, which was causing my tires to be worn too quickly, but otherwise it was good. There were so many spectators, it was incredible at times. I have really enjoyed the rally and it was very good to compete on the grand prix track at the finish as well."

The next round of the FIA World Rally Championship is the Swedish Rally, February 8-11.