29 Feb 08
Both of the Suzuki team’s SX4 WRCs have been forced to retire from Rally Mexico with engine problems similar to those experienced in Monte Carlo and Sweden.
A batch of faulty head gaskets is thought to be responsible for an overheating problem, which in turn leads to internal damage.
Nobuhiro Tajima, Suzuki World Rally Team principal said: “This was an incredibly disappointing experience for all of us. As was the case in Monte Carlo and Sweden, we have been stopped by an engine problem and we suspect that it is for a similar reason, although we will only know for sure once we fully examine the cars.”
“It’s clear that we have an issue with the engines, but under the current engine linking regulations we are not permitted to change the engine during or in between the rallies to try and understand the problem,” explained Tajima. “As a new team we want to and we need to improve: but sometimes this is not easy when the rules are not in your favour as a newcomer. It was always going to be tough for us here. Toni did not really have a chance today, but until his retirement P-G was again doing a fantastic job for us. The potential is still very much there and we all have confidence that we will bounce back from this disappointment.▓
P-G Andersson had a promising run through the first three stages of the event, setting top-eight times on all of them, but he noticed a loss of power on the way back to service in Leon. The car made it back, but it was decided that he would not restart so that the engine could be returned to the factory for analysis.
Toni Gardemeister also had engine problems through the opening loop of stages, with intermittent throttle response. He started SS4 in the afternoon, but stopped a few kilometres into the stage. The Finn, contesting his 100th world rally in Mexico, was also forced into retirement.
The engines of both cars will be flown to Japan for detailed examination.