16 May 08
Paul Wilding, Suzuki World Rally Team manager, says that he is happy with the performance of his two cars on the opening day of Rally d’Italia Sardegna.
Toni Gardemeister brought his SX4 WRC back to service in Olbia in 10th position, while his team mate P-G Andersson was 9.2sec behind him in 11th.
Both Suzuki crews made a cautious start on the opening stage, but Gardemeister was up to an sixth by the end of SS2 and arrived at midday service in a point-scoring eighth.
Both cars were largely reliable throughout the day’s six stages. Gardemeister encountered some gear selection problems throughout the day but otherwise had a clean run to the finish, while P-G struggled with a front brake problem. Leaving the midday service late, however, cost Gardemeister and Andersson 40 and 10 seconds of penalty time respectively.
“The team has achieved its goal in these unusually rough conditions, and we have been able to learn a lot,” said Wilding. “We look forward to building on this solid foundation tomorrow, which will be the longest day of the rally and every bit as challenging as the conditions we faced today.”
“Today has actually been a very good day for us,” said Gardemeister. “To be sixth fastest and sixth overall at the end of the longest stage of the rally this morning was very encouraging. We had a few problems with the downshifts on the gearbox all day, but really nothing major. I just tried to be very smooth and precise on these stages, because if you go off the line then it is easy to have a puncture or hit a rock.”
“It’s been a steady start to the rally, but these stages are very difficult,” said Andersson. “Maybe it’s because of the changing level of grip, or maybe because the roads are so narrow, but it’s been hard to find a good rhythm. It’s been very slippery as well - a bit more than I expected. I had a problem with the brakes in the afternoon, but our objective has been to stay out of trouble and so far I think we’ve managed to achieve that. If we keep the same level of reliability tomorrow, then I’m confident that we can move up the order.”