Wilson praises Gardemeister

Ford WRC team boss Malcolm Wilson praised his new lead driver Toni Gardemeister after the Finn came home second on the Monte Carlo Rally, his first event with the team

Wilson praises Gardemeister

Before the rally there was tremendous speculation about how Ford's 2005 driver line-up would fare. With established stars Markko Martin and Francois Duval leaving the squad for Peugeot and Citroen respectively, Ford had to gamble on Toni Gardemeister and Roman Kresta - who possessed just one previous WRC podium finish between them.

Gardemeister rewarded Wilson's confidence with the runner-up spot in Monaco, while Kresta recovered to eighth after crashing on the icy final stage of leg two.

"It's been a very solid performance by the whole team," said Wilson. "The thing that impressed me about Toni was the way he didn't react to the pressure. Even when Petter Solberg was pushing him hard this morning and he had a bit of technical trouble with the rollbar, he still kept his head."

The result marked Gardemeister's first podium appearance since he took third for Seat on the 1999 New Zealand Rally (on his WRC debut), and he was suitably delighted.

"This was my best performance yet," said the Finn. "I may have surprised a few people. I felt on top of the car and had no problems with it - one of the best things about the Ford is it's very easy to drive, and maybe that's why I could get straight in and get second place on my first rally.

"Before the rally started I thought in the back of my mind that maybe I could get a podium, so it's fantastic to be second."

Wilson believes that Kresta can emulate Gardemeister's performance later in the year, despite a stuttering start to the Czech driver's Ford career.

"I've never worked with such a nervous driver," said Wilson of Kresta. "He needed that accident yesterday so he could put it behind him and get on with it. His whole body language and everything has changed today. He has great natural potential."

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