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Toni Gardemeister: My Favourite Car Was The OCTAVIA WRC

When he was a part of ŠKODA Motorsport works team, the Finnish driver Toni Gardemeister battled against the biggest legends of rallying in the World Rally Championship. Later, he went on to found the TGS, or Toni Gardemeister Services – a rallying team that counts many well-known drivers among its clients, including Jari-Matti Latvala and the rally’s rising star, Kalle Rovanperä. He also became the first private owner of the new and improved ŠKODA FABIA R5 evo, which was unveiled by ŠKODA Motorsport this year.

In WRC, you achieved great results for ŠKODA in rallies in Argentina and New Zealand. How hard it was to make your mark in the fierce competition of those days?

I fondly remember the times behind the wheel of the OCTAVIA WRC. The later FABIA WRC was still a brand new car when I drove it – it was still in development and had its share of teething problems. The OCTAVIA WRC was already a mature car and I really liked it, even though it wasn’t the fastest one. It was reliable and it felt great to drive. It may have been a bit “lazy”, but I was probably also. Maybe that’s why we clicked so well. I could really feel it and it was especially wonderful in fast rallies. I remember having a real blast in the 2003 Rally Sweden. We only finished in eighth place, but we were competing against Carlos Sainz, Colin McRae and drivers like that. I beat some of them and we weren’t that far behind the fastest ones. Sweden is the kind of fast rally where the OCTAVIA WRC was really great. Today, it may look a bit old, but with tarmac settings, I still like it quite a bit.

How much have the rally cars changed, from the driver’s perspective?

They changed a lot, especially between the 1990s and the new millennium. Until then, you could say that if you got really crazy behind the wheel, you got a lot faster. In those days, there wasn’t so much tyre grip and advanced aerodynamics didn’t really exist. Of course, there were big differences between various cars as well, but if you had the courage to go beyond the limit, you were truly fast. You could make a huge difference with your driving skills. Today, you mostly have to have courage in the fastest sections and trust aerodynamics to hold you on the track. I have sat in some of the new WRC cars as a co-driver, and it’s really crazy. You have to be really brave not to get scared, especially if you’re not the one holding the wheel. Generally, though, the clean, optimized driving style is faster these days. You can estimate the right speed for each corner and sometimes, it’s faster to go slower. If you feel that you’re losing and start to push too much, it may do more harm than good.

“ŠKODA is really reliable. That’s even more important for a private team than the outright speed.”

You work with many young drivers. How important is talent in this era?

You certainly need talent to become a really good driver. If you keep learning and work hard to improve, you can be very fast even without it, but talented drivers have it easier. It’s absolutely important to start very early, when your motor skills are still developing. Then driving becomes your second nature. The people who started out later are not controlling the car as effortlessly – you can always tell. To be honest, I know drivers who have almost no feel for the car at all, and even they can post great times, but as soon as something unexpected happens, they have a problem.

When did you start to drive?

When I was four, I began with karts and other small machines. At seven, I first drove my father’s rally car on the frozen lakes in Finland. I had pillows stacked around me to be able to reach everything. When I was 12 or 13, I was already faster than him.

Is this a normal way of raising children in Finland?

If someone in the family is a racer or has a passion for cars, it’s quite common. Of course, this is changing as more and more people live in cities, where there’s no opportunity for this. But generally, it’s normal.

Now, you run your own team, the TGS. How did you move from a rally driver to the team boss?

After I did my last WRC season in 2008, I wanted to continue rallying. I managed to find a big sponsor, which made it possible for us to compete in the IRC. I bought a ŠKODA FABIA S2000 and I started to build a team around the two of us. Then it occurred to me that we could offer our car and experiences to others as well. Since then, the TGS has grown quite fast. First, we worked for just one or two drivers, but after a couple of years, we were quite busy – among our customers were Teemu Suninen, Kalle Rovanperä and several other drivers. We have three cars of our own, and we take care of several more. My old FABIA S2000 has stayed with us – for some time, it was in Iceland, but then it returned to our care and it looks as if it will be coming back to the rally tracks soon.

Why did you choose ŠKODA cars for your team?

At the time, I was looking at different cars, compared them, but ŠKODA was the fastest from my point of view, and above all, it was really reliable. That’s even more important for a private team than the outright speed. It also helped that I had good relationships with ŠKODA Motorsport from previous years.

“I always try to have the best and fastest car available. I have no doubts that the FABIA R5 evo will be faster and more well-rounded than the previous version.”

Is it more difficult to manage the team than drive a car?

It’s not that hard. From the past, I know a lot about rallying and building a good team was quite easy. I pieced it together from my friends, who also had a lot of experience. Today, we are doing quite a lot and things have got more complicated, but with good people, it always goes easy. To be honest, I don’t even want to grow much anymore, I like the way it is now.

You are most active in the R5 class. What makes it interesting for you?

Launching this class was a great success for FIA and there’s no wonder it keeps growing. The R5 cars feel like full-blown rally cars and they are very fast. At the same time, they are not outrageously expensive and they are quite easy to drive. For example, the FABIA R5 is significantly easier to drive than FABIA S2000. Even non-professional drivers can be relatively successful with it. Of course, it’s far from cheap, but the purchasing and servicing costs are not crazy.

There’s a lot of talk about hybrid powertrains coming to rallying. What do you think about it?

I have no doubts that it’s the future, but it’s hard to say when and how exactly. Personally, I don’t think that hybrids will come to the R5 class anytime soon. It’s certainly on the way for the WRC cars, but the current hybrid technologies are too expensive and complicated for a typical customer team. When they become cheaper and more common, it will be a very welcome change. However, I don’t expect them to come to the lower classes in the near future. I would say maybe in five or even ten years.

You became the first private owner of the improved ŠKODA FABIA R5 evo. What are your expectations for it?

Our customers are very curious about it and I want to offer it to them. I always try to have the best and fastest car available. I have no doubts that the FABIA R5 evo will be faster and more well-rounded than the previous version. As soon as I heard about it, I called ŠKODA Motorsport to place a reservation on one or two units.

Won’t your customers argue about who’s going to drive it?

A couple of customers already asked, but I have to decide who will drive it and where. We’ll see…
















Media ŠKODA Motorsport

Photos: @Media ŠKODA Motorsport
Petr Lusk and Ralph Hardwick

30 September 2019

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The stars aligned for Petter in Wales last week,as former team-members joined him at Wales Rally GB.

Petter lands the high five with another Wales Rally GB win



The Solberg story headlines at Wales Rally GB (again)
Emotional farewell as Petter signs off with a WRC 2 victory
Petter: “That’s a proper way to say goodbye.”
Oliver fastest on his first ever WRC outing
Stunning Saturday morning speed, Oliver beats everybody on just his third WRC stage
Mixed emotions doesn’t come close for the Solberg family following another thrilling week in Wales.

Petter and Oliver drove their Volkswagen Polo GTI R5s on one of the season’s most complicated and competitive rallies. Both have a story to tell…

For Petter, a four-time Wales Rally GB winner, the last week has been an astonishingly rapid run down memory lane. It’s seven years since the triple world champion competed in Britain, but it felt like yesterday when he delivered the dream: a fifth Wales Rally GB win – admittedly, this one was in the WRC 2 category.

This time, even Hollywood was almost lost for words.

“Incredible,” he said. “Unbelievable. Since we planned the Farewell Tour at the start of the year, I wanted to come here and wanted to do GB. It was different this time with Oliver driving as well. The emotions were a little bit more complicated, but this result… what can I say?

“The comeback starts now!”

Petter admitted returning to one of the season’s most complicated rallies was not straightforward.

“I didn’t underestimate how tough this would be? But maybe I forgot a little bit about how tough it was! This rally is one of the hardest in the championship and it always was – that’s one of the things that make it so special when you are having the success here.

“The days are long and the roads are so, so difficult to read and take confidence from, but when you get it right, it’s the best feeling in the world.”

More on that comeback?

“Do you think I should? Maybe? No, we’re working on Oliver’s plan now. Oliver is the future for the Solberg story, mine is a little bit in the history now. Honestly, it’s been really nice, fun and a lot of emotions coming to this rally. I love this place and these people, so to share my last proper WRC round with Wales was so special for me and Phil.

“That was the proper way to say goodbye.”

Back to the future…

In the last week, Oliver’s World Rally Championship dream got real.

After an already insanely successful rookie season of four-wheel drive rallying, where Oliver has become the youngest ever European Rally Championship event winner and taken America by storm with Subaru Motorsports USA, Wales Rally GB was the next mountain to climb.

Predictably, Oliver made short work of his big moment. He was fastest of all the R5 cars (including WRC 2 Pro and WRC 2) on just his third stage in the World Rally Championship.

Unfortunately, a misted-up windscreen spoiled SS1, while a smashed wheel rim on the second test ruled him out Friday. After a day by the north Wales seaside, Oliver was very much back in business on Saturday morning.

That’s when the fastest times started. Nobody drove an R5 car faster than Oliver through Dyfi and Myherin. Nobody.

Unfortunately, just as the weekend was starting to fly, Sweet Lamb turned sour and Saturday was done.

“The car stopped,” said Oliver. “We don’t know why. We checked everything, but it wasn’t possible to continue. We came to service and the team made lots of investigations, worked on the car and then I could come back again on Sunday.

“Of course, it was disappointing that we couldn’t take the experience we wanted from all of the stages, but the thing I wanted to have a look at for myself was the speed.

“I have been asking myself for the whole time: “Where am I for the speed? How will I compare with the other guys?

“When I came to the first stage on Saturday morning, it was really difficult. I had nothing to win and a lot to lose if I crashed. Honestly, we drove at around 95 per cent and the times were good.”

Good? Try sensational.

Through the 26-kilometre Dyfi test, Oliver was 9.1 seconds faster than any other R5 cars. And 24.7s up on Papa.

“That was good,” he said. “I enjoyed that one – the grip was really good in places and this took me by surprise. I was braking early many times.”

In Myherin, Oliver could only manage fastest by 3.1s and this time Petter was just eight down.

After that, Saturday went south, but Sunday demonstrated more speed and more potential before he rolled in the penultimate test.

Oliver said: “The end of the event wasn’t like we wanted, but the dream really has come true for me to be here. Wales and the World Rally Championship wasn’t like my Papa told me it would be. It was evenbetter.”

Media PS 110% AB

Photos: @Media PS 110% AB
Copyright © 2019 Petter Solberg Media Office, All rights reserved.

October 8, 2019

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Nasser Al-Attiyah celebrated his sixth Cyprus Rally victory on Sunday evening by revealing that he’s considering a full FIA European Rally Championship campaign in 2020.

Al-Attiyah, from Qatar, has enjoyed a long run of success in stage and cross-country rallying at both regional and international level.

He’s yet to tackle more than a handful of ERC events in any one season but that could change next year.

“We are thinking to the European [championship] next year, we will sit with the team and we will see,” said Al-Attiyah, who drove an Autotek Motorsport-run Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 to victory in Cyprus.

“To compete in different race [is the reason], we know everybody, the atmosphere in this European championship is really great, a family, and a lot of media. And when you win you win the race.”

In addition to a possible ERC bid, Al-Attiyah also confirmed he hopes to represent Qatar in skeet shooting at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.…/


Photos: Media FIA ERC By Nico Meyer 🇩🇪 / RRM WRC Argentina Magazine 🇦🇷🌏

08 October 2019


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Aston Martin Racing clinches first Vantage GTE victory of WEC season
First double-class victory first for Aston Martin Vantage GTE in WEC
Team earns first double-podium for Vantage as sister car finishes third
TF Sport captures first win in WEC to cap an amazing month for team

Sunday 6 October, 2019, Fuji Speedway, Japan. The Aston Martin Vantage GTE clinched its first double victory in the FIA World Endurance Championship, with the car winning both the GTE Pro and Am classes of the 6 Hours of Fuji. It was Aston Martin’s first double triumph since the team managed it in Mexico in 2016.

Marco Sørensen and Nicki Thiim delivered a perfectly-judged performance with the #95 Aston Martin Racing Vantage GTE Pro car in Japan, to deliver their first win of the 2019-2020 season and their second since the car was introduced in May 2018. Meanwhile in GTE Am TF Sport dominated the race with a lights-to-flag victory, having started from the class pole position.

Sørensen began the race from third, but quickly moved up to second in a first hour that stood out for its fantastically close racing between the three manufacturer teams in the Pro class. Once in front, thanks to a brilliant pass for the lead by the Dane on the pit straight using the tow of backmarker, he and team-mate Nicki Thiim (DEN) were able to establish control of the race.

The duo did briefly lose the lead to their team-mates Alex Lynn (GB) and Maxime Martin (BEL) in the #97 car, who undercut the #95 on an alternative strategy in the second hour, but after that the Danes managed the race and the intermittent rainy conditions perfectly. Lynn and Martin brought the sister Vantage GTE home in third, marking the first time the car has recorded a double-podium finish in GTE Pro.

It was the fifth win for Thiim and Sørensen in the Dane Train, and the third victory for the Vantage GTE in the last six WEC events. It means that the Danes are now second in the GTE Pro drivers’ standing, one point off the lead, while Aston Martin is also second in the Manufacturers’ Championship with 65 points.

“Winning a race like the one we did today is why we all do it,” said Sørensen. “It was great to be involved in the fight for the lead in the first hour of the race, and because we were leading, after that the race seemed to fly by. This was an important win for Aston Martin and and I am very proud for the team. I’m delighted.”

Thiim added: “It is a great feeling to be standing here as a winner. WEC GTE Pro has some of the best racing on the planet as you saw today. It was so close that we had to split strategies on the two cars to cover off the competition. That worked well for us and I’m really proud of the team who have worked so hard for this. They kept their focus and had the right mentality today which was why we were able to capitalise on the car’s pace. This is a fantastic result for Aston Martin.”

In only the second race since the Vantage GTE became eligible to race in the Am class, TF Sport produced an outstanding performance. Having started from pole position the bright red #90 car led all the way. Salih Yoluc became the first Turkish driver to win a WEC event, while for AMR works drivers Jonny Adam (GB) and Charlie Eastwood (IRL) it was the end of a long wait. TF Sport has finished second four times in the last two seasons prior to this win.

Aston Martin Racing Managing Director John Gaw added, “This result is the perfect demonstration of the Vantage GTE’s potential. It was a great performance by the two Danes. Marco drove extremely well in the first hour and Nicki was outstanding throughout his stint and when the rain came. This was also the first opportunity for us to see our Technical partner Michelin’s new tyres in action on an equal footing in the dry against our rivals, and I think we’ve proven that we are very much in the fight. That Alex and Max also finished on the podium rounded off an excellent team effort. It was indeed a great day for Aston Martin, and I would like to wish TF Sport congratulations on an excellent and long overdue win in the GTE Am class.”

The next round of the FIA WEC takes place at Shanghai, in China, on 10 November.

– ENDS –

About Aston Martin Lagonda:

Aston Martin Lagonda is a luxury automotive group focused on the creation of exclusive cars and SUVs. The iconic Aston Martin brand fuses the latest technology, exceptional hand craftsmanship and timeless design to produce models including the Vantage, DB11, Rapide AMR and DBS Superleggera. The Lagonda brand will relaunch in 2021 as the world’s first luxury electric vehicle company. Based in Gaydon, England, Aston Martin Lagonda designs, creates and exports cars which are sold in 53 countries around the world.

Lagonda was founded in 1899 and Aston Martin in 1913. The two brands came together in 1947 when both were purchased by the late Sir David Brown. Under the leadership of Dr Andy Palmer and a new management team, the Group launched its Second Century Plan in 2015 to deliver sustainable long-term growth. The plan is underpinned by the introduction of seven new models including the DB11, new Vantage, DBS Superleggera and an SUV, as well as the development of a new manufacturing centre in St Athan, Wales.

About Juniper Networks

Juniper Networks challenges the inherent complexity that comes with networking in the multicloud era. We do this with products, solutions and services that transform the way people connect, work and live. We simplify the process of transitioning to a secure and automated multicloud environment to enable secure, AI-driven networks that connect the world. Additional information can be found at Juniper Networks (, or connect with Juniper on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

Juniper Networks, the Juniper Networks logo and Junos are registered trademarks of Juniper Networks, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the United States and other countries. Other names may be trademarks of their respective owners.

– ENDS –

Media Aston Martin Racing Team

Photos: Media FIA WEC 2019 / 2020
Media Aston Martin Racing Team

08 October 2019

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