Gardemeister guns for Ford seat in 2001

Toni Gardemeister is set to move to the Ford World Rally team next year to drive a Focus WRC alongside Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz, according to this week's Autosport magazine

Gardemeister guns for Ford seat in 2001

Gardemeister has impressed this year driving for SEAT, which is quitting the World Rally scene at the end of the season. Sources suggest that the Finnish ace has not signed a deal with the Blue Oval yet, but say the 25-year-old is the most likely candidate to drive a third car.

The M-Sport-run team is in need of a young talent to fill the seat vacated by hotshoe Petter Solberg, who has signed to drive alongside Richard Burns at Subaru in 2001. It is thought Gardemeister will be expected to bring some backing to the team as Ford's budget only funds the works cars of McRae and Sainz. The third car fielded for Solberg was paid for entirely by M-Sport.

"We're still in discussions about next season and we hope to have a decision soon," said M-Sport boss Malcolm Wilson. "But as far as a third car is concerned, nothing is signed."

Should a deal go ahead with the Finn, it will leave few pieces in the 2001 driver market jigsaw still out of place. Gardemeister's SEAT team mate Didier Auriol is tipped to move to Peugeot, while Alister McRae is likely to stay on at Hyundai with Kenneth Eriksson as team mate.

Harri Rovanperra is to renew his association with SEAT for the Spanish marque's last World Championship event, next month's Rally Great Britain. "They [SEAT] liked the idea of the driver who competed in the car on its first rally using it on its last rally," said the Finn. The deal means SEAT will run four Cordobas, with Rovanpera and former British champion Gwyndaf Evans joining regulars Dider Auriol and Toni Gardemeister.

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