Skoda Motorsport Team driver Toni Gardemeister finished today's second leg of the Catalunya Rally in 13th position but team-mate Didier Auriol retired from the event 3kms into this morning's first stage when the clutch on his Skoda Fabia WRC developed a fault and caught fire.

Once again Gardemeister proved that the Fabia WRC continues to improve but a broken anti-roll bar for the middle pair of stages today ended his chances of climbing higher up the leaderboard.

"The first three stages today, and their repeats this afternoon, were fast and flowing but the middle pair were quite twisty so we lost some time there with the broken part," said the Finn, "The car handled a lot better today so I could push quite hard. I was able to have a really good personal battle for stage times with Tommi Makinen."

Auriol, who went out on SS9 - the first test of the day, added: "The clutch began to slip on the start line of the stage. I got going but it was a struggle and the clutch caught fire. I had to use the fire extinguisher and also water brought by spectators to put it out."

Director of Skoda Motorsport, Petr Kohoutek, summed up: "The performance of Toni's car this morning was consistent with yesterday. As a result we chose to use this afternoon's repeated stages to carry out some comparison testing and this seems to be the right way to go tomorrow."

Tomorrow's final leg is the shortest of the three at 103.56kms. It also features the earliest start with cars entering the first of six stages at 0743. Icy roads and low cloud could be a critical factor.

Also, each of tomorrow's stages have already been used in the opposite direction so any dirt dragged onto the surface will now be in the braking area for corners. The last stage of the rally will again feature the famous hairpin under the motorway bridge where huge crowds will cheer their heroes in the final dash for glory on this penultimate round of the World Rally Championship.



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