Skoda Motorsport World Rally Team driver Toni Gardemeister set the third fastest time on a rain-affected second stage today.

While the sport's acknowledged asphalt experts struggled for grip, Gardemeister discovered that the Fabia WRC's excellent handling was perfect for the conditions when heavy rain turned the stage into a dangerous river of water.

Gardemeister ended the second day of the event in eleventh position after setting a second top ten times.

"I chose to use cut slicks for the first two stages and this was the right tyre for the conditions," said the Finn, "After that the right choice was intermediates. I was very cautious on the first stage as there were some dangerous wet patches.

"The worst stage was the second one. It started wet but then got dry before it started raining again for the last part. I think it was worse for the cars behind but I was really happy with our new suspension set up. It made the car very easy to drive in the wet and we set a really good time."

As the conditions worsened, and with this afternoon's stages littered with stones and mud dragged onto the surface by other cars, Gardemeister changed to intermediate tyres, adding eighth fastest time on SS9. Unfortunately a broken rear roll bar prevented him continuing his progress up the leaderboard but he was still happy with his day's work.

He added: "We have again proved we are heading in the right direction with our suspension but now we must take a similar radical approach to the differentials as the characteristics now need to be better matched to the new settings."

Skoda Motorsport manager Pavel Janeba concluded: "I'm really happy to have completed another day of this difficult rally. Every kilometre is vital to our development programme but we have seen very clearly here that we are moving forward. We will try to do the same for tomorrow's final leg and then go to Catalunya with confidence."

Didier Auriol meanwhile retired from the Tour de Corse yesterday and flew home in the afternoon. However he will not escape the development programme as the Skoda Motorsport World Rally Team has arranged an extra test session near his home in Millau on Monday so that Auriol can try out the new suspension settings discovered by Gardemeister over the past two days.

Tomorrow's final leg comprises two stages each run twice in a total stage route of 112.10kms. The first is a typical Corsican test with a rich variety of challenges. It climbs through a winding ascent to a fast middle section and then a descent to the finish through a series of tight hairpins. The second stage has a fast start before a narrow middle section and then another series of hairpins to the finish. The stages are located to the south east of Ajaccio and there is then just a short liaison section to the finish in the town centre at 1430.