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Q&A: Toni Gardemeister - Suzuki: EXCLUSIVE

24 July 2008

by Rob Wilkins


TO HEAR THE INTERVIEW IN FULL WITH TONI GARDEMEISTER: CLICK HERE


Toni Gardemeister returned to the WRC full time this year having secured a drive with the new Suzuki World Rally Team. The pace of the new SX4 WRC has been encouraging at times - but unfortunately reliability has been more of an issue. Indeed Toni only has only managed to finish twice in eight events. Crash.net Radio spoke to him recently to get his thoughts ahead of the start of the second half of the season...



Crash.net:
Toni, the year started off well for Suzuki with those points finishes in Monte Carlo and Sweden. After that though, it has been a bit tougher. What are your hopes now for the second half of the season?

Toni Gardemeister:
For Finland we will have a new car. I don't know yet what new parts we will have, but these new parts will help. They should bring some more speed and some more reliability. I hope that the second part of the year is a lot better than the first. Okay we had some good times and good pace. But we had a lot of problems with the car as well.

Crash.net:
As you said, Suzuki will have some upgrades for Finland. How much of a difference will that make?

TG:
I don't know yet what things there are specifically. But there is something for the suspension and new hydraulics. Maybe the new hydraulics will help us because we had some problems with them earlier in the season.

Crash.net:
Have you got a test before Finland?

TG:
Yeah, we have only one day now, but at least we will do that. It is set for next week on Monday [July 28], in the build-up to the Rally Finland.

Crash.net:
Finland is obviously your home event, will that spur you on?

TG:
It is always a very good feeling to drive there and you always want to get a good result on your home event. You have a lot of friends and family there. I don't think I will push more there though. I still want to ensure I get to the finish. But of course it would be nice to get a good result.

Crash.net:
Is Finland one of your favourite events?

TG:
It is one of my favourites. But I don't think it is the best event or the one I like the most. It is definitely in my top five though.

Crash.net:
After Finland the WRC goes to Germany. Germany is one of three asphalt events in the second part of the year. How is the SX4 WRC on tarmac?

TG:
In Monte Carlo it looked quite promising already. We haven't done any tarmac tests yet and Germany is also different to 'normal' asphalt events. It is quite dirty and it is a little bit like Monte Carlo in some ways. I think in Germany we could do quite well and I like the event there too.

Crash.net:
How would you sum up the first half of the season?

TG:
Like you said before it started quite promisingly and the team got points in Monte Carlo and Sweden. That was very good. In fact it was a surprisingly good start because it was a new team and new car - everything was new and there was not so much pre-season testing either. We immediately set quite good times. But then we started to get a few little reliability problems during the next few events. That was not so good. I would say it was mixed. There were good stage times - but there were also a lot of retirements. I have mixed feelings overall.

Crash.net:
There has been speculation Suzuki might take a sabbatical at the end of this season. How much does the sport need them to carry on?

TG:
[long pause] ...Hopefully we can get some good results and everything will go well in the second half. I haven't actually heard anything from the team that they might be considering that. We need to get some results now and that is what we will try and do.

Crash.net:
Mikko Hirvonen and Sebastien Loeb are currently battling for the 2008 drivers' title. Who is your tip to take the crown?

TG:
Hopefully Mikko will get the title. But there are some tarmac events coming up and Sebastien will be very quick on those rounds. I'd like Mikko to do it [as he is a Finn like me], but at the moment its look a little bit more like it will be Sebastien.

Crash.net:
Have you got any advice for Mikko?

TG:
He needs to try and concentrate really well on the tarmac events - and win the Rally Finland.

Crash.net:
Jari-Matti Latvala stepped up to the Ford 'A' team this season. Have you been impressed with his form?

TG:
At the start of the year I was a bit surprised that he was so quick immediately. But I always felt he was very quick. What has surprised me is that he hasn't made many mistakes this year. He has calmed down a little bit and that is very good. He is concentrating more and it is very good that he is helping Mikko - and Ford to take the manufacturers' title.

Crash.net:
Sum up what you want to achieve by the end of the year with Suzuki?

TG:
We want to finish every event and I would like to be in the points on every rally if possible. I finished seventh in Sweden and hopefully we can get in the top-six on some rounds this year.


TO HEAR THE INTERVIEW IN FULL WITH TONI GARDEMEISTER: CLICK HERE


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