Suzuki confirms pace and consistency with stage win on day two of Rally Japan The second day of the Rally Japan took in ten more stages that were very different to those of the opening day, but the two Suzuki SX4 WRCs still displayed the pace...
Suzuki confirms pace and consistency with stage win on day two of Rally Japan
The second day of the Rally Japan took in ten more stages that were very different to those of the opening day, but the two Suzuki SX4 WRCs still displayed the pace and consistency that saw them both finish within the driver points at the end of Friday. After Saturday's action, Toni Gardemeister is in sixth place - having claimed Suzuki's first-ever stage win on SS19 - while P-G Andersson is just behind him in seventh, following a puncture that he had to stop and change on SS16. Earlier the young Swede and his SX4 WRC had shown some extremely promising pace, by setting second-fastest time on the opening stage of the day and climbing to joint fifth overall.
The stages were much faster and rougher than they had been on the opening day, providing a stark contrast for all the drivers and teams. Despite these extremely challenging conditions and some uncertain weather, both SX4 WRCs were very reliable throughout the 156 competitive kilometres that made up Saturday. In front of thousands of excited home fans, the Suzukis put in an extremely competitive performance in what is still only their first full season of competition.
The third and final day of the Rally Japan has an early start at 06:00 tomorrow before the first of nine stages and 96.43 competitive kilometres that will decide the outcome of the rally and most likely this year's World Championship titles. Suzuki will start the last day of its home event with the firm aim of scoring driver points with both cars, and confirming the progress that has been consistently made since the start of the season.
Car news - Suzuki SX4 WRC n.11 (Gardemeister), n.12 (Andersson):
The cars had to face a variety of unknown conditions, with the Rally Japan being run on these stages for the very first time. Due to the soft ground and rough surfaces, the drivers had to select a tall enough ride height to get through the stages without problems but still guarantee precise handling. In the afternoon the crews tackled a marathon run of six consecutive stages without service, including the longest stage of the rally at 33 kilometres, before the action concluded with two more passages through the spectator superspecial inside the famous Sapporo Dome, where Gardemeister set joint fastest time.
On the second run through the stages the roads cut up quite badly, leading to several rocks being pulled out onto the ideal racing line. At the 30-minute midday service halt, Andersson and Gardemeister both softened the suspension of their cars in order to improve traction on the slippery Japanese surfaces. The Suzukis were perfectly reliable throughout the day, although Gardemeister's SX4 WRC suffered from an overheating rear differential during the closing stages of the afternoon. With Gardemeister and Andersson now comfortably inside the driver points, the yellow cars are poised for a strong finish on the final day of the rally tomorrow.
Toni Gardemeister: "I'm very proud to have recorded Suzuki's first stage win! But the day has been tricky for us. In the morning I think we drove quite well, although the stages were so slippery and difficult that it was hard to analyse exactly what was going on. Then in the afternoon we had a problem with the rear differential. Nonetheless, we've got to the end of the day within the driver points and our aim is to try and build on that tomorrow."
P-G Andersson: "What a day! It was a real shame we had the puncture, but the roads were so rough that it was inevitable this would happen to somebody. We came into a junction nine kilometres from the start and the soft ground just pulled the tyre off the wheel rim, so I had to stop and change it. That shouldn't take anything away from what has been an extremely positive day for us though. We've been second-fastest on a stage, fifth overall, and the car has been completely reliable: that's a sign of really solid progress."
Shusuke Inagaki, Suzuki World Rally Team Director: "Considering that we have not yet even completed one full season of the championship, this event has gone very well for us so far. To be in the top eight is a great achievement, and we are very proud that our car has shown both performance and reliability. Tomorrow is another long day, so we need to stay fully concentrated all the way to the finish."