29 Jul 08
Rally Finland will mark the introduction of Suzuki’s first significant evolution of its World Rally Car, the SX4.
Engineers at the Suzuki team’s bases in Paris and Japan have developed new suspension and hydraulic components, homologated under the FIA’s ‘variant option’ scheme, which enables manufacturers to alter the specification of certain parts during the season.
Suzuki hopes the new parts will make the SX4 WRC lighter, more reliable, and more competitive. Two brand new SX4 bodyshells have been built for the rally, which the team says incorporate important weight-saving gains without compromising strength or stiffness. A pre-event test in Finland this week will put all the new components through their paces and act as an extra shakedown for the new cars, while giving Suzuki the chance to run on the soft compound Pirelli control tyres that are being used for the first time this year in Finland.
Nobuhiro 'Monster' Tajima, the Principal of the Suzuki World Rally Team, commented: "Our campaign on the World Rally Championship so far has taught us many tough lessons - which have been a vital part of the learning experience. We now look forward to putting some of these lessons into practice with the latest improvements to the SX4 WRC, on what is the fastest and probably the toughest rally of the year."
On a rally where local knowledge definitely helps, Suzuki will be relying on its Scandinavian driver line-up of Toni Gardemeister from Finland and P-G Andersson from Sweden. Although they have both had the chance to get in some summer holidays, Toni and P-G have been busy as well. Two weeks ago Toni contested the 'OK Rally', a Finnish Championship round based in his home town of Kouvola, using his own two-wheel drive BMW rally car.
"It was a bit of fun, but it also served a serious purpose," said Toni. "The stages around Kouvola are quite similar to those we will see on the Rally Finland. After quite a long time out of a rally car, it was good to get back into the rhythm of competing again and practise taking the right lines over the crests. When we test the Suzuki and its new parts this week we will have a better idea of where we are. Realistically, many of our rivals still have an advantage over us in terms of engine power - which is quite an important factor in Finland - but also our local knowledge helps. We've always had good speed in Finland in the past, but equally we've been a bit unlucky. I'm feeling confident though: if we can set some times inside the top five I think that shows we are making progress."
P-G Andersson has spent the summer concentrating on his fitness and enjoying the warm weather in Sweden: which is set to be replicated in Finland this weekend. Although he has not had the chance to drive any events since Turkey, he too is feeling upbeat about his prospects in Finland - an event where he has previously won the Junior World Rally Championship class with Suzuki.
"Finland is definitely one of my favourite rallies of the year and I think it suits my driving style," explained P-G. "We've always gone well there in the past, and I'm looking forward to competing there in a World Rally Car for the first time. It's one of the rallies that I know quite well, but maybe the fact that there are lots of new roads helps us as well, as it means that the local guys might not have such a big advantage. It would be really nice if we could finish in the points on such a challenging rally, and as long as we have good reliability and keep out of trouble, I don't see any reason why we should not do that."