The Skoda Motorsport World Rally Team was busy today despite retiring from the gruelling Cyprus Rally yesterday.

Team driver Toni Gardemeister and team co-driver Denis Giraudet stayed behind in Limassol to meet the press and also to enjoy a final day of Mediterranean sunshine before flying back home to Finland and France respectively.

Gardemeister took time to explain that he was sad to mark the end of the Octavia WRC's career with a rare accident that forced him out of the rally yesterday but also to look ahead to the dawn of a new era with the Fabia WRC.

"The Octavia WRC has been a very good car and has been especially reliable. I will have good memories of it," he said. "But now we move on to our new car, the Fabia WRC, that will be seen for the first time in Germany.

"We have done a lot of testing with it already and there is a lot more work still to do. It takes time for a driver to feel as if he is part of the car and not just sitting in it because only then can he really get the best results. I expect that Germany will be half rally and half test for us as it will be the first time that we can compare the Fabia WRC with our rivals."

Denis Giraudet, co-driver to Didier Auriol, spent part of this afternoon enjoying the sunshine while riding his new Skoda mountain bike and relaxing before returning to France. The next few weeks will see intense work with the Fabia WRC and so the chance to spend time in the sun has been eagerly taken.

The Cyprus Rally marked the halfway point of the 2003 World Rally Championship and the final event for the Octavia WRC. Since the car made its debut at the 1999 Monte Carlo Rally, Skoda Motorsport has entered 111 cars on 48 events. Yesterday's double retirement meant that Cyprus is the first time in 22 consecutive rallies that Skoda Motorsport did not have a car at the finish of a WRC event.

Highlights of the Octavia WRC's career include stage wins in both Catalunya 2000 and Safari 2001 [where Skoda Motorsport lead a WRC event for the first time], getting three cars in the final top 10 of the 2002 Rally Argentina and Auriol's third place on the opening stage of this year's Cyprus Rally.