Tony Gardemeister Sumar
Toni Gardemeister's rally career began in 1993 when he took to the wheel of an Opel Ascona in his native Finland. He made an instant impact in the junior category by beating drivers of the calibre of Harri Rovanperä and Tapio Laukkanen. The following year he continued to impress by claiming seven category wins in the Finnish Junior Championship.
In 1996 Gardemeister moved up to the Formula 2 category and made his world rally debut on his country's 1000
Lakes Rally in an Opel Astra, leading the category before retiring. His ability earned a drive for Nissan on Britain's RAC Rally several months later and he finished an excellent 16th in a Sunny GTI, earning points for the team in the Formula 2 world series. The following season Gardemeister won the F2 category in the Finnish Championship at the wheel of a Nissan Sunny and was third in the category on the 1000 Lakes Rally. He also campaigned a Lancia Delta Integrale in Italy and claimed his first overall victory on the Rally del Tronto and four other podium finishes.
His breakthrough into the WRC came in 1998 when he joined the official Seat team midway through the season for its campaign in the FIA Two Litre World Cup for Manufacturers. He finished second in F2 in both New Zealand and Finland and helped Seat to the world title.
He signed to drive for Nissan in 1999 but the team abruptly withdrew from the sport before the start of the season. He returned to Seat and drove an Ibiza in the British Championship. A string of podium finishes prompted the Spanish team to hand him a Cordoba WRC in the second half of the world championship season. He made a sensational start, finishing third in New Zealand on his first ever world rally in a World Rally Car. He also finished sixth in Finland.
Gardemeister signed a two-year contract with Seat for 2000 and 2001. He started the 2000 season well with fourth in Monte Carlo but scored points only once more, in Australia, following a dreadful run of retirements. The team's decision to withdraw from the WRC left Gardemeister without a works drive for 2001. He piloted a privately-run Peugeot on the opening two rounds of the season in Monte Carlo and Sweden and fourth and fifth places were sufficient for Skoda to sign him to drive an Octavia in 2002.
Fifth place in Argentina was his best result and points finishes on four of the opening five rounds of the 2003 season promised much. However Skoda's switch from the Octavia to the Fabia did not bring the expected results and he failed to score again. The Czech manufacturer contested only a limited programme of European events last season, seventh in Germany being Gardemeister's best result.