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Gardemeister survives big moment to score.

Suzuki's Toni Gardemeister was delighted at the end of his home event on Sunday after bringing the newly revised SX4 WRC car home in eighth place on the Neste Oil Rally Finland.

Gardemeister broke into the top ten halfway through the opening leg and while he was slowed by a steering problem on the first loop on Saturday, he moved up into eighth in SS16, when Stobart Ford's Gigi Galli and his team-mate, Per-Gunnar Andersson both rolled out on a tricky bend hidden behind a crest.

After that despite coming under a bit of pressure from Matthew Wilson's Ford Focus, Gardemeister hung on comfortably to secure the final drivers' point and two manufacturers' points.

Speaking at the finish, Toni was clearly very pleased, especially as he almost went out in SS7 on Friday, when he hit a rut and his SX4 WRC was pitched up into the air. Luckily the car landed back down on all four-wheels and he continued on his way. The incident did result in him injuring his shoulder however, and he then had to cope with that for the reminder of the event.

"When we went off in the second run through Palsankyla on Friday afternoon, it was a very, very big moment for us. I would say we went off the road at about 180kp/h - incredible! I really thought we were going to roll. We collected a puncture on the left-rear tyre which was there for the rest of the stage and I hurt my right shoulder in the impact. It was bad," he reflected.

"It's been a really good day today though - a day I've really enjoyed. The stages are nice, the sun was shining and, of course, there were plenty of Finnish flags flying! It looked as though we could be having a big fight with Matthew [Wilson], but we managed to keep him behind.

"Once I realised that we had the speed to stay ahead of him, it was okay. I could relax and enjoy the roads. To end the event in Ruuhimaki, with those jumps at the end of the stage, is fantastic. That's why people love Rally Finland. I came here feeling we could make points and we have done that. It's been a good week."

Suzuki team manager Paul Wilding meanwhile was happy to see Gardemeister get to the end and score points on the debut event for the 'B-spec' SX4 WRC. Furthermore while he was disappointed for Andersson - who had also been going well until his exit on day two, he was philosophical about the Swede's error.

"Toni has driven very well today. He's made no mistakes and the car hasn't missed beat. We're very pleased with the performance and reliability we've found from the latest development of the Suzuki SX4 WRC. Taking points is why we're here, so we're delighted with that," Wilding summed-up.

"Of course, it's a shame that P-G went off the road yesterday, but these things happen in this sport - particularly on such a high-speed event as Finland. Now, though, our focus switches to Rallye Deutschland and the new challenge of a pure asphalt rally. One thing is sure, though, we go there on a high after a points-finish in Finland."


Related Pictures

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Toni Gardemeister (FIN) Tomi Tuominen (FIN), Suzuki SX4, Suzuki World Rally Team
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