The Skoda Motorsport World Rally Team has completed day one of the Rally Australia, with Didier Auriol in tenth place, just 12 seconds outside the manufacturers' points, while Toni Gardemeister lies in 14th.

Faced with a battle against their recent injuries, both Auriol and Gardemeister have shown gritty determination and have each been rewarded with times inside the top ten.

On today's nine stages the Fabia WRC has set six top ten times with Auriol claiming five and Gardemeister one. Auriol's best performance came on stages four and eight when he was ninth overall and on SS7 he moved into the top 10 of the rally.

Throughout the day Auriol has been adjusting differential settings to further improve the handling of the Fabia WRC on an event where the famous 'ball-bearing' gravel, unique to Western Australia, makes consistent grip almost impossible to find.

"The road conditions have been changing throughout the day," he said. "Sometimes there is quite good grip and sometimes it is impossibly slippery, often on the same stage, and it makes it very difficult to be 100 per cent committed to every corner."

Gardemeister's first full day of rally action since breaking a bone in his right wrist has shown how determined the young Finn is. He has been forced to drive a lot of the stages using only his left hand and this has placed extra strain on his left arm and shoulder.

"The first and last pair of forest stages were quite twisty today and that was not so easy for me," he said. "It certainly affected my last two stage times. The middle pair of stages were much smoother so I could drive more aggressively and was therefore able to set my top ten time."

Gardemeister adjusted the suspension to a harder setting this afternoon as, while the softer option was easier on his wrist, it also made the car less precise and his confidence to find the correct braking points was being affected by the softer handling of the Fabia WRC.

Skoda Motorsport team manager, Pavel Janeba commented: "I have to give a lot of praise to both Toni and Didier. Their performance has been excellent considering that both drivers have had less than ideal preparation for this very difficult rally. We have also not been able to test the car ahead of this event because of the regulations and so I am pleased that we have been able to produce a solid performance today."

Tomorrow's second leg is the furthest from Perth and centres on the town of Dwellingup, around 90kms south of the city. The action comprises four stages before service with three of them repeated afterwards in a second batch of four stages. This should reduce the 'cleaning' effect of the loose surface for the second runs through the tests. After a regroup the cars then return to Perth for two final runs over the Gloucester Park superstage in front of a capacity crowd. There are a total of 124.00 stage kilometres scheduled, starting at 0730 and finishing at 1958.

 

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