The Skoda Motorsport World Rally Team is ready for round three of the 2002 World Rally Championship and the Rallye de France - the 46th Tour de Corse [March 7-10].

This year's rally is much earlier in the season than normal, although the rally route is virtually unchanged, with just one new special stage, the 36.73 km long Petreto to Ampaza mountain stretch, to the south east of the rally HQ in Ajaccio.

Corsica is renowned for its micro climate, which can mean big variations in the weather and because of the earlier Spring date, the teams have been warned to expect anything from blinding sunshine to last minute patches of ice at the higher altitudes.

Corsica is well deserving of its ancient Greek name as the island of beauty. With half the total population living in just two towns on the coast, vast stretches of the island are an unspoilt natural wilderness, hugging a mountainous spine of over 20 mountains at least 2000 metres high. But the natural beauty of the island cannot disguise the fact that the rally is considered one of the most demanding of the world rally calendar, with teams racing at breakneck speeds high into the mountain passes and gorges.

Skoda Motorsport's Kenneth Eriksson last competed in Corsica in 2000 but before that he took a long break, competing last in 1987. The 45 year old said: "It is a tough rally but I like it. I like driving on the Corsican tarmac. But now it's earlier in the season the weather is even more unpredictable. During testing we had ice and even a little bit of snow. It could be like a second Monte Carlo for the team. We must be ready for anything."

His co-driver Tina Thorner added: "After Sweden everybody will have high expectations for our result. But we have to be careful. We will of course try very hard, but the tarmac conditions in Corsica are not ideal for us."

Finn Toni Gardemeister is under no illusions of how hard the rally of Corsica is. He said: "I have only competed in Corsica once before and it was tough. It certainly isn't my favourite rally but that won't stop us trying hard for a top ten placing. I am actually looking forward to being back competing in the Octavia WRC. My only disappointment was that we have had to wait so long for Corsica, I would have liked to have been back in a World Rally immediately after Sweden."

In Sweden, Gardemeister and co-driver Paavo Lukander, crashed during Leg 2, but the 26 year old Finn said his confidence has not been dented. He noted: "Paavo and I could not wait to get back in the car."

Roman Kresta, who is making his debut in Corsica said: "I am really looking forward to the challenge. My aim is to get to the finish without making any mistakes, but I am feeling quite enthusiastic about the car and my chances. I had some strong tests so I believe I can succeed."

Skoda Motorsport team principal Pavel Janeba concluded: "Every rally is dangerous, with the drivers having to make superhuman efforts and make split second decisions about the terrain on which they are racing, so in that respect Corsica is no different. But in Corsica I hope in particular that Roman [Kresta] has a good rally and that he avoids any problems that will stop him reaching the finish. Our results will be very weather dependent; if it is wet we hope Skoda Motorsport can finish in a good placing."