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Q&A: Toni Gardemeister - EXCLUSIVE

19 April 2007

by Rob Wilkins


Toni Gardemeister has swapped his privately entered Citroen Xsara WRC for a Mitsubishi Lancer WRC this season and so far he has been pretty happy with his new stead, scoring points in two events out of four. Here he speaks exclusively to Crash.net Radio...



Q:
Toni, you are competing in a privately entered Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05 this year. How have you found things to date?

Toni Gardemeister:
It has gone quite well. In Monte Carlo I was expecting to be a bit more competitive but the weather this year was not so good for us - it was dry and not really changeable. But other than that it was good. We had no problems with the car. It behaved quite well, especially when you consider we didn't really test with it before the rally - only a few days. On the snow in Sweden and Norway the car worked well too and we had good speed. Then in Portugal we had a small problem with the FIA [which meant I was disqualified at the end of day one].

Q:
You've had two points' finishes so far, seventh in Monte Carlo and sixth in Sweden. Are you happy with that?

TG:
It is good that we got points - but in Sweden it could have been a lot better without the driveshaft problem we had on the second day and the penalty. But otherwise it went well and I am pleased with the performances.

Q:
Of the four events you have done this year, two were new to the WRC - namely Portugal and Norway. How did you find them?

TG:
Both rallies were very nice. Norway was very bumpy and it was very difficult to adjust the car to work well there. But the stages were good, quite fast. The weather was not so nice there was a lot of snow. Portugal for me seemed to very good too but very tricky. The stages were very difficult, but having said that they were good to drive.

Q:
As you mentioned a moment ago, you were excluded in Portugal. You didn't finish in Norway either. How frustrating was that?

TG:
In Norway I was quite upset. I made a small mistake there. We had good speed and we were fighting with Petter [Solberg] early on Saturday. I tried to pass him and I made an error [in SS9]. That cost me 20 minutes and that was it - the fight was over. I was a bit annoyed with myself. I made this one mistake - that was all, game over [Toni then retired at the end of second day with mechanical problems – ed].

In Portugal for sure I was very upset too. When we came to service we had lost one tyre, but we had all four rims and we had a spare in the boot. On the way back I called the team to ask should we change to the spare. They said: 'No it should be OK'. Unfortunately though, it wasn't. For me the punishment was quite harsh because we drove very slowly on the road sections and just tried to get the car to service in one piece.

Q:
Last year of course you used the Peugeot 307 WRC and the Citroen Xsara WRC, how have you found it switching to another different car?

TG:
It is not so simple to switch cars, but the Mitsubishi was immediately quite easy to handle and it suited my driving style quite well. OK, all the cars - the Xsara and the 307 - were quite easy too, the Peugeot was at the start a bit more difficult, but once I drove it a bit more, it also started to suit my style. But for sure always if you haven't tested before you jump in another car it takes a while to get top speed.

Q:
You aren't included on the entry list for Argentina. So what is the plan now for you?

TG:
We are entered in Sardinia at the moment but after that I don't know again. It is always one rally by one rally. OK, the entry for Greece will finish very soon and we need to make a decision quite soon if we are to go there or not. But we will see. At least we are entered for Sardinia.

Q:
Do you have any idea how many events you might do this year in the WRC?

TG:
I cannot say how many. I don't know how many, but we will try something.

Q:
Generally speaking, it looks like it will be another battle between Sebastien Loeb and Marcus Gronholm this year for the drivers' title. Who do you think will take it?

TG:
It is very early at this point, everything could change. But it looks, if Loeb can get a lot of points in the early part of the year, on the gravel events, the chances are slightly better for him. There are a lot of tarmac events in the second half of the season and he excels on asphalt. I don't count Marcus out though. He is quick - and also Mikko [Hirvonen] could be close as well [and could take points from Loeb].

Q:
Have you been surprised by the new Citroen C4 WRC and how good it has been straight out of the box?

TG:
Not really, because they have been - or what I have heard, have been testing with it a long time before the season. I am not so surprised the car is quick. They had a good car last year and a good car to make a comparison with. It is not a surprise that Citroen are so quick.

Q:
Can your 'old' team, Ford, win the manufacturers' again?

TG:
For the manufacturers' championship I think Ford has a good chance. Both drivers' - Marcus and Mikko are strong in all the events. At the moment, it looks as if on gravel, Dani [Sordo] is not on Mikko's speed and he needs to be in front of the other Ford if they, Citroen want to get more points. Having said though that at the end of the year there are four tarmac events and for sure Dani will be good there. It is difficult to say, like with the drivers'. But for sure, for the manufacturers' I think Ford could have quite a good chance.


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