Suzuki on the podium at end of day one On the final event of this year's World Rally Championship, both the Suzuki SX4 WRC entries are in the points, confirming the solid progress made throughout the season. P-G Andersson finished the day in...
Suzuki on the podium at end of day one
On the final event of this year's World Rally Championship, both the Suzuki SX4 WRC entries are in the points, confirming the solid progress made throughout the season. P-G Andersson finished the day in third - Suzuki's best-ever result - while his team mate Toni Gardemeister was 11th after being slowed by a badly misting-up windscreen.
The opening day of the Wales Rally GB was characterised by bad weather that forced the cancellation of two special stages and the shortening of four further tests, reducing the competitive distance considerably. Nonetheless, huge crowds braved the British climate to witness some classic stages that have not been used since 2001. Despite the sheet ice and incredibly slippery conditions, neither Gardemeister nor Andersson put a foot wrong and both are poised to continue their strong run tomorrow. Saturday's action will consist of seven more stages, concluding with a run through the spectator superspecial stage in Cardiff's Millennium stadium. At less than a kilometre long, this is the shortest stage in the entire World Rally Championship.
Car news - Suzuki SX4 WRC n.11 (Gardemeister), n.12 (Andersson):
Both SX4 WRCs were perfectly reliable all day, encountering no problems throughout the opening six stages of the rally. In view of the icy conditions, both drivers softened the suspension of their cars in an attempt to find traction and grip. This worked well, enabling the Suzukis to climb into the points. However, the constant rain meant that the windscreen of Toni Gardemeister's car misted up badly during the afternoon's loop of stages, robbing him of visibility and almost forcing him to a stop on more than one occasion. Nonetheless, the opening day of the Wales Rally GB has underlined both the pace and reliability of Suzuki on a level playing field - as today's action was new to most of the drivers.
Toni Gardemeister: "When the windscreen misted up in the afternoon it was really bad; I could hardly see at all, and I was having to ask my co-driver Tomi about what he could see through the right-hand bends. It got much worse after the watersplash, so some water must have got into the car. But when conditions are good, we can set some nice times so I'm hoping for another strong day tomorrow. It was definitely the right decision to cancel the stages, as the ice was really bad in the morning."
P-G Andersson: "It's been a great day today, and I am very proud to be on the podium overnight; the first time that this has happened for me or Suzuki with the SX4 WRC. This just goes to show that all the hard work we have put in over the year is really starting to pay off. Conditions today have been as bad as I can remember on the Rally GB: even the road sections were slippery! But I've really enjoyed today and I am aiming for another strong run tomorrow."
Suzuki Team Director Shusuke Inagaki: "The rally route has been even more difficult today than we expected, on account of the adverse weather conditions. The areas of ice were completely unpredictable, making for one of the most difficult rallies of the season. In these very tough conditions, our SX4 WRC proved that it was capable of fighting with the world's best and finishing on the provisional podium. Of course there is still a very long way to go over the next two days so we hope to capitalise upon this very promising start."