Both Suzuki SX4 WRCs held top-10 positions at the end of an impressive opening day of Rally New Zealand for drivers P-G Andersson and Toni Gardemeister. Swede Andersson was never out of the top-10 fastest times on the long stages out west of the rally's base in Hamilton. In SS2.2, Andersson was fifth fastest, just 4.2 seconds off the fastest time - a feat he repeated on the day's final stage at Mystery Creek. His team-mate Gardemeister (Finland) was disappointed when he dropped more than a minute in the first stage of the day due to a puncture, but he battled back to move an incredible 14 places up the leaderboard by the close of play. The torrential rain ahead of the event had washed a section of the Waitomo stage away, forcing the organisers to split the stage in two in order to avoid the worst affected area. Despite the terrible weather ahead of the event, the entire opening leg was run in glorious sunshine, with temperatures closing on 20 degrees in this southern hemisphere winter.

Both cars ran without any technical fault through the opening day's 138 kilometres of flat-out action. Gardemeister's only trouble was his SS1 deflation on the right-rear tyre. Both Toni and P-G worked on the set-up of their SX4 WRC at the lunchtime service halt, softening the car in order to try and find more traction on the gravel-strewn North Island roads.

Toni Gardemeister: "This morning was disappointing for me. I really wanted a good run here and had a nice feeling, but then we got the puncture. After that, the rest of the day has been good. No problems. The car has been running well, but the conditions have been tough this morning. Running through the stages the second time, the line is looking cleaner which is helping to give us more traction."

Paul Wilding, Suzuki World Rally Team manager: "Without Toni's puncture this morning, this would have been pretty much the perfect day for the team. Neither car has had any kind of a problem, which is really satisfying for Suzuki after all the hard work, which has been put in on the SX4 WRC. Tomorrow's stages are a bit faster and more flowing, so we're looking forward to some more trouble-free and fast running from both P-G and Toni."

Leaderboard after Day 1
1. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen FIN Ford Focus RS 1hr 34min 44.3sec
2. S Loeb/D Elena FRA Citroen C4 1hr 35min 12.1sec
3. D Sordo/M Marti ESP Citroen C4 1hr 35min 14.3sec
4. J-M Latvala/M Anttila FIN Ford Focus RS 1hr 35min 14.4sec
5. F Duval/P Pivato BEL Ford Focus RS 1hr 36min 12.2sec
6. U Aava/K Sikk EST Citroen C4 1hr 36min 45.6sec
7. P Solberg/P Mills NOR Subaru Impreza 1hr 37min 10.1sec
8. P-G Andersson/J Andersson SWE Suzuki SX4 1hr 37min 34.8sec
9. T Gardemeister/T Tuominen FIN Suzuki SX4 1hr 38min 32.3sec
10 F Villagra/J Perez Companc ARG Ford Focus RS 1hr 39min 31.8sec

Lyhyt esittely

Olen toisen sukupolven ralliautoilija. Vuonna 1975 synnyin moottoriurheiluperheeseen ja kasvoin pihapiirissä, joka oli ympäröity kilpa-ajoneuvoilla. Isäni autourheiluharrastus alkoi vuonna 1970 ja sen myötä vauhti on tullut ikään kuin perintönä.

Ammattilaisuran jälkeen Toni toimii mm. ajokouluttajana ja mentoroi uusia rallilupauksia sekä toimii Jari-Matti Latvalan etuautokuljettajana.

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© 2019 | Toni Gardemeister