Toni Gardemeister said today that the recent development work on the Skoda Fabia WRC has been turned into an improvement in the car's handling and overall performance. He finished today's six stages in 13th position.

"The engine feels much smoother than in Sanremo although the uphill sections of this rally show that we still need to find more power," said the Finn, "I have used softer suspension for today's opening leg and the car feels much faster than in Italy."

After the accident that put him out of Sanremo, Gardmeister admitted that he started today in a cautious mood but gradually picked up the pace as the day progressed.

The stages had become very dirty for the second runs this afternoon with lots of loose gravel dragged onto the roads by other cars. "Driving downhill on gravel and on slick tyres is very dangerous so I could not push too hard," said the Finn. Tonight he plans no major changes to the car although he may fit softer suspension tomorrow if it rains.

Skoda Motorsport manager Pavel Janeba commented: "We took a big step in a fresh direction with our suspension development before this rally. We saw today that the gap to the big teams is less than it was in Sanremo so I hope that we are now heading in the right direction. We can't make big improvements in just three days but I think we have reason to be optimistic for the future."

Didier Auriol meanwhile was forced to retire from a 'home' rally that he has won six times in the past before he even started the first stage. A water leak caused a short circuit in the ECU that controls the clutch and electronic gearchange. As the problem occurred inside the control area the rules did not allow Auriol to repair the problem.

"If we had not been in the control area we could have fixed it and continued in the rally," noted the Frenchman, "As soon as we retired from the event we were able to make the necessary changes and drive the car back to service."

Tomorrow's second leg to the east of Ajaccio is the longest of the rally comprising 190kms of stages. There are three different stages (including the two longest of the event) run once in the morning and repeated in the afternoon. The day's third stage is the longest of the rally at 40.94kms. It starts on the route of a classic Corsican stage before changing at half distance to a brand new section that has not been used before.

 

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