Suzuki in the points after strong opening day in Corsica
The two Suzuki SX4 WRCs of Toni Gardemeister and P-G Andersson have finished the opening day of the Rallye de France-Tour de Corse within the points in seventh and 12th places, after a strong and reliable run. Corsica is arguably the most respected asphalt event of the entire calendar, with sinuous roads that test the performance of the cars and the bravery of the drivers to the utmost.
Corsica was also the scene of the SX4 WRC's debut one year ago, and the team has been able to take on board a number of lessons learned from its previous participation. Toni Gardemeister battled a flu-type illness throughout the day, which made life extremely difficult for him in the warm weather that characterised the day's action. Both drivers were committed straight out of the box to end the day's 119.92 competitive kilometres in the points. Once more, the SX4 WRC exhibited perfect reliability throughout the day, underlining the consistent progress that has been made since the start of the year.
The action was split up into two loops of three stages, with service on the harbourside at Ajaccio. The stages used today were quite varied, with some extremely bumpy and narrow roads as well as faster sections that are more reminiscent of the Rally de Espana, which finished less than a week ago. When the drivers tackled the speed tests for the second time in the afternoon, there was plenty of loose gravel to catch them out. This put grip at a premium, and also meant that there was a high risk of punctures. Tomorrow's day two takes in six more demanding asphalt stages before returning to Corsica's capital of Ajaccio for overnight parc ferme.
Car news - Suzuki SX4 WRC n.11 (Gardemeister), n.12 (Andersson):
Having completed some useful runs over the six-kilometre shakedown stage yesterday, the Suzuki SX4 WRCs started off with a good base set-up for today's action. During the morning's stages, both drivers reported that the car felt good on Pirelli's hard compound control tyres. At midday service in Ajaccio, the drivers made small adjustments to the suspension in order to optimise the car's handling for the repeated stages in the afternoon, which were held in warmer weather with more loose gravel on the roads. Both cars were entirely reliable from the start to the finish of the leg, despite the incredibly challenging nature of the roads on 'the rally of 10,000 corners' - as it used to be known.
Having finished the opening leg in a strong position, the Suzuki World Rally Team is now well-poised to attack the longest day of the rally tomorrow. No major changes are planned to the set-up of the cars for leg two.
Toni Gardemeister: "The biggest problem I had today was the fact that I was feeling really ill for most of it: I had a very sore throat and during the afternoon my legs felt like spaghetti! Under those circumstances it's quite difficult to drive flat-out, but I did my best and we are not in a bad position overnight. The car today has been very good and so we've ended up in the points, which is good. Hopefully tomorrow I will feel better and we will continue to move up the leaderboard."
P-G Andersson: "After going off the road in Catalunya, it was important for me to try and get my confidence back so I wasn't pushing so hard today. We steadily improved the car and I'm happy with the progress we made, after I carried out a few small suspension adjustments at service. The roads today were really tricky and surprisingly slippery, but now that I have a good feeling with the car I can push hard tomorrow."
Shusuke Inagaki, Suzuki World Rally Team Director: "Once more, our SX4 WRC has been perfectly reliable all day. Toni has done a fantastic job to finish provisionally in the drivers' points at the end of the opening leg, despite his illness. As for P-G, he has built up confidence without putting a foot wrong and so he is now in the manufacturer points. To have two Suzukis in points-scoring positions at the end of such a tough first day is a solid achievement, and now we hope to build on this promising start over the rest of the weekend."