Skoda Motorsport Team driver Didier Auriol was f?ted by his colleagues at yesterday [Thursday]'s shakedown test for the Catalunya Rally as he celebrates his 150th World Rally Championship event start. Only Juha Kankkunen and Carlos Sainz have started more events.

Auriol was taken by surprise as the celebration was kept secret from him until he stepped out of the Fabia WRC after his final test run.

"Is it 150 already?" he asked when he saw three specially created cakes laid out for him along with gifts from the team and co-driver Denis Giraudet. "I didn't expect to reach this number of events so this is a very special moment.

"I have so many memories from those 150 starts and it is difficult to pick one that stands out. However, I think I would have to say my 1989 win in Corsica was special because my son was born during the rally."

Yesterday's shakedown took place near the famous Viaduc d'Osormort that provides one of the strongest visual images of the entire World Rally Championship as drivers tackle the hairpin underneath. Thousands of enthusiastic Spanish fans cling to the hillsides and lean over the edge of the bridge to cheer their heroes. Many of them were there to see the teams make final preparations but over the next three days the crowds will reach record proportions as the championship battle reaches its climax.

The recent bad weather that caused so many dramas in Corsica also lashed the Catalan region and yesterday's shakedown stage was very slippery after the rain washed a layer of mud onto parts of the road. The forecast for the weekend suggests that yesterday's sunshine, but cold temperature, may give way to rain at some stage.

Toni Gardemeister is expecting to start the rally with the Fabia WRC in a similar specification to that with which he finished the Tour de Corse on Sunday.

He said: "I was happy with the way the car handled in Corsica so that is a good basis to start this rally. We tried some things today [Thursday] to gain more information but the road became more slippery as the shakedown progressed and we couldn't truly evaluate anything new."

After last nights ceremonial start in the heart of Lloret de Mar's 'disco quarter' crews head north east today [Friday] for eight stages [totalling 146.36kms]. On each of the three days the drivers will tackle the stage under the bridge, therefore giving the fans an ideal opportunity to see the action.



Loading Comments...