Gardemeister takes Suzuki World Rally Team's best result to date Toni Gardemeister has finished in the points for Suzuki on the Swedish Rally, claiming seventh position and the team's best result to date scoring two driver points and three ...
Gardemeister takes Suzuki World Rally Team's best result to date
Toni Gardemeister has finished in the points for Suzuki on the Swedish Rally, claiming seventh position and the team's best result to date scoring two driver points and three manufacturer points. Following on from P-G Andersson's result in Monte Carlo two weeks ago, this means that a Suzuki SX4 WRC has taken points on both rallies held so far in the 2008 World Rally Championship.
Andersson was forced to retire on the opening day of the rally with a head gasket problem, but Gardemeister had a reliable run to the finish despite some hydraulic issues and an off-road excursion on Saturday.
Crews had to battle with a distinct lack of snow on the stages compared to previous years, which led to a stage being cancelled on both Saturday and Sunday. With comparatively warm temperatures above zero degrees, there was plenty of loose gravel that ripped the studs out of Pirelli's control tyres and reduced the amount of grip available.
Having fought his way strongly back into the points after going off the road yesterday, Gardemeister concentrated on consolidating his position over the final six stages today. With SS18 being cancelled due to lack of snow, he was able to cruise to the end in Karlstad to rack up Suzuki's second consecutive points finish. The Suzuki SX4 WRC once again showed itself capable of setting top-six times over the course of the three-day event.
Car news Suzuki SX4 WRC n.11 (Gardemeister), n.12 (Andersson):
Gardemeister had no major problems this morning and he was able to drive safely to the finish. The only issue he encountered over the course of the rally was a hydraulic problem that affected the differential and semi-automatic gearshift intermittently on Friday and Saturday. On SS11 he went off the road for three minutes at a fast left-hand corner just a kilometre into the stage. Unfortunately some spectators accidentally pushed him further into the ditch rather than helping him out, which led to the time loss. Apart from those problems, Gardemeister's SX4 WRC performed reliably in only its second-ever rally.
Andersson was forced out by a head gasket problem on SS4, having previously climbed up to seventh place overall. The head gasket was from the same batch as Toni Gardemeister's engine in Monte Carlo, which failed under similar circumstances. As the rules state that teams are not allowed to change engines after a rally has started, Andersson became a spectator for the rest of his home event.
Gardemeister and Andersson came to the Swedish Rally after a very positive snow test in the north of the country, which was under full snow. Unfortunately, conditions in the actual rally were very different, which meant that both drivers had to adjust their set-up and driving styles in order to look after the tyres. Nonetheless the SX4 WRC showed an extremely encouraging pace under the circumstances, with Gardemeister climbing as high as sixth overall after SS4, and Andersson running in seventh place immediately before his retirement.
Toni Gardemeister: "I'm very happy to have scored my first points for Suzuki after a tough three days. The biggest problem we had were the conditions. There was a lot of loose gravel, and so we had to soften the suspension a lot on the opening day to deal with the rough stages. Then we had a problem with the hydraulics on the second day, and also we went off the road. That was a really stupid thing, as it should have cost us just 10 or 15 seconds and in the end it took three minutes although of course we are always grateful for any help in these situations! On the last day we just drove safely to the finish as there was no point in taking any risks. There's lots of development still to do but I'm basically very happy with the pace of the car considering the fact that we did comparatively little testing. By the end of the year, I'm sure we will be a lot closer to the frontrunners."
P-G Andersson: "The amount of media interest we had in us on our home rally was incredible I think it went up by 600%! Obviously the way the rally ended was very disappointing for myself and my co-driver Jonas, but there is a lot for us to be positive about as well. Toni has proved that our SX4 WRC is capable of consistently scoring points, and if we had kept going I think we certainly would have been able to challenge for another place in the points. We have to remember that this is only our second rally with the SX4 WRC, and at least we have a good idea now about the cause of my retirement. We must keep on working hard to fix these problems, and I'm looking forward to coming back and pushing hard again on the next round in Mexico."
For the newly-formed Suzuki World Rally Team, the Swedish Rally was also a valuable learning experience of working together under difficult circumstances. At the end of it, Gardemeister emerged with the team's best result to date which was achieved with the help of solid team work.
Nobuhiro Tajima, Suzuki World Rally Team principal: "I am very happy. Toni and Tomi have brought us our best result to date in our short world rally career so far, and we have also finished in the points again for the second time in two rallies! It's a very proud moment for everyone. Of course, I am very sorry for P-G and Jonas who would also have deserved to finish in the points again, just as they did in Monte Carlo. It's clear that we have a long way still to go but the car has been born well, as the results to date prove. This rally could not have been much more difficult for us, as all our limited preparation was based on snow. Even without it, we have managed to bring home another result. Congratulations to everybody now we are already working hard for Mexico. It will be a completely different event but the objective is the same: to bring back both cars in the points."