Suzuki hopes for delight on Turkish Rally After a year's absence from the calendar, the Rally of Turkey makes a welcome return to the World Rally Championship this year as the eighth round of the series, marking the halfway point of the 2008 ...
Suzuki hopes for delight on Turkish Rally
After a year's absence from the calendar, the Rally of Turkey makes a welcome return to the World Rally Championship this year as the eighth round of the series, marking the halfway point of the 2008 season. As expected, Suzuki has climbed a tough learning curve on its debut season, with every event presenting a new challenge. Turkey is the last of a trio of Mediterranean rallies run on rough gravel, before a break of more than a month for all the WRC teams. Suzuki is aiming to end the first half of the season on a high, following the improved reliability of the SX4 WRC seen in Sardinia and Greece. Although the surfaces in Turkey should not be as harsh as they were on the Acropolis, this event still contains a number of hazards that can catch people out. In the past the weather on the Rally of Turkey has been varied, but the forecast this year is for dry and consistent conditions which should make the event a level playing field for all the drivers to fight on equal terms.
In terms of durability, the Acropolis Rally was one of Suzuki's strongest-ever events: a good omen for Turkey, which contains some similar stages. With the Turkish rally not having formed part of the WRC calendar last year, nobody has any recent data about the stages ensuring that the competition should once again be close. The rally gets underway on Thursday night at 17:00 with a ceremonial start and superspecial stage at Akdeniz University on the outskirts of Antalya in southern Turkey. The competitors will then contest a total of 19 special stages totalling 360.12 competitive kilometres before the finish at 14:50 on Sunday. For more information: www.wrcturkey.com
Car news Suzuki SX4 WRC n.11 (Gardemeister) and n.12 (Andersson):
The car will start off with the same base set-up as for Greece, but with some specific modifications to suit the demands of Turkey. The Turkish stages are not as consistently rough as those in Greece, which proved to be a brilliant test bed for the SX4 WRC. Consequently, there are some adjustments to the suspension and dampers for the Turkish event, and the car's cooling system has also been modified to deal with the expected high temperatures even more efficiently.
Despite Turkey being gentler on the car than the Acropolis, there are still some sections that are extremely rocky, so finding the correct set-up and ride height will be of crucial importance during the shakedown. In the past there have been some spectacular watersplashes in Turkey, but these are not expected to figure so prominently this year. Suzuki's engineers have recently upgraded the SX4 WRC's underbody protection so it should be ready for anything.
Toni Gardemeister has contested the Rally of Turkey twice before, finishing sixth overall in 2005, while P-G Andersson has competed three times already in Turkey: one of the few rallies this year where the young Swede has better knowledge of the conditions than his experienced team mate. Nonetheless, P-G has bittersweet memories of the event. Having won the Junior Championship classification as part of a Suzuki one-two in 2005, he won again in 2006 only to be disqualified for a trivial rule infringement to do with the fitting of light pods.
For Toni, it will be very much a question of re-acquainting himself with the Turkish stages after a three-year absence. "I don't know a lot about the stages, but I remember that they were quite nice and classic gravel roads," he said. "In 2003 it was very cold, and the stages were partly covered with snow and ice. When I did the rally in 2005, the recce was very foggy so it was difficult to have good pace notes. Hopefully the conditions should be a bit better this year. In terms of the car, we have definitely seen an improvement in the reliability recently and our aim is to continue in this way for the rest of the season."
P-G Andersson was also encouraged by the team's performance in the extreme conditions of Greece, which saw both cars finish in the manufacturer points for the first time. "We're definitely on the right road, and I'm looking forward to another good result in Turkey," he commented. "Because the conditions are not as bad as the Acropolis, I think we can definitely aim to score some driver points. If the car is as reliable as it was in Greece, I see no reason why that shouldn't be possible. Turkey is a rally that I like a lot, so I think we can push a bit."
Following on from its strong showing in Greece, the entire Suzuki World Rally Team is intent on consolidating the speed and reliability of the car in Turkey, before the WRC's annual summer break. Durability is still the key focus within the Suzuki squad in Turkey, which should be the final rough rally of the season. The emphasis then turns to asphalt for the second half of the year, with rallies in Germany, Spain and Corsica still to come.
"Turkey is an excellent opportunity for us to continue developing the car in these types of conditions," said Nobuhiro 'Monster' Tajima, the Suzuki World Rally Team principal. "So far we have made a lot of progress, but there is still plenty of work ahead of us if we are to achieve our objective of eventually challenging for podiums. Our objective for Turkey is to once more finish with both cars in the points and build some solid foundations for the future."