Suzuki SX4 WRC gets underway in Argentina
The Suzuki World Rally Team of Toni Gardemeister and P-G Andersson has begun the Rally Argentina with a ceremonial start in the capital of the province, Cordoba, on Thursday. Both SX4 WRCs drove over the ramp in the city centre, watched by thousands of fans and the world's media.
Nonetheless, the real action just got underway this morning, with the first of 21 all-gravel special stages. The biggest question mark over the South American event this year, round four of the World Rally Championship, is the weather. With autumn receding and winter approaching in the southern hemisphere, several days of rain have made the soft stages waterlogged meaning that the surfaces are likely to be extremely slippery. However, Gardemeister and Andersson aim to use the difficult conditions to their advantage, with the goal of placing both SX4 WRCs inside the points. The ongoing development of the car received a boost from the recent news issued by the FIA world motorsport's governing body that new teams will now be allowed to use two additional engines in their first season of competition with no penalty.
Car news Suzuki SX4 WRC n.11 (Gardemeister), n.12 (Andersson):
Both cars completed the short shakedown stage on Thursday morning near rally headquarters in Villa Carlos Paz: a last-minute opportunity to finalise settings for the Argentinean event. As the Suzuki World Rally Team has never tested in Argentina before, it was a good chance for the squad to begin to work on suitable suspension settings. However, with so many unpredictable elements surrounding this rally, it was hard to know how representative the shakedown would be of the actual event conditions. Neither of the cars encountered any problems during the shakedown, and both SX4 WRCs returned safely to parc ferme in Villa Carlos Paz after the start ceremony.
Toni Gardemeister: "From what we have seen so far, I think this will be the most tricky Rally Argentina I have ever done. The roads are very wet and slippery, and the new tyre regulations for this year mean that we cannot cut the tyres to disperse all the water. It would be a bit easier if we were allowed to do that, but as long as it is the same conditions for everyone then I really don't mind. We've still got some work to do in order to catch up our rivals, so marginal conditions like these can actually help us I think."
P-G Andersson: "My biggest problem on this event is going to be lack of experience: I've only been here once, in a Super 1600 car, and the conditions were very different. However, it's the sort of rally that I like, and of course I'm going to be doing my best to get into the points. The best way to achieve this is going to be by staying out of trouble. We've made a few changes to the car to cope with these special conditions, and I look forward to seeing how they are all going to work."
Nobuhiro Tajima, Suzuki World Rally Team principal: "First of all, I'd like to say how pleased I am with the FIA's decision to allow new teams the chance to use more engines without penalty in order to speed up the pace of development. It is not only us who will benefit from this, but also any other new teams joining the championship. Anything that encourages competition is good, so we thoroughly applaud this measure. As for the Rally Argentina, it looks like being even more difficult and unpredictable than usual this year. We have made some changes to the car since Mexico, so we hope to have the chance to confirm our improved speed and reliability here. However there are so many unknown factors that we cannot take anything for granted. We are still learning, so we must concentrate on taking as much benefit from this event as possible."