21 Jan 08
Following two test events in Corsica and Great Britain last year, the Suzuki World Rally Team is preparing for its first full season in the WRC with two new drivers: Toni Gardemeister and reigning Junior Rally Champion Per-Gunnar Andersson.
Using the experience gained from the two test events in 2007, the SX4 WRC features new differential and suspension settings for Monte Carlo, and the team says it has made a raft of other improvements under the skin.
This will be 32-year-old Toni Gardemeister's ninth Monte Carlo Rally, and he says it's one of his favourite events. "If things go well for us in Monte Carlo I think we can come away with points," said Gardemeister. "The car is still new, so we're not going to be on the pace of the frontrunners yet, but the overall set-up and reliability is good. The SX4 has a very compact wheelbase so it changes direction quickly, which will be very useful on the fast and twisty roads of Monte Carlo. This is always an unpredictable event, but I think that mixed conditions could actually work in our favour. I'm particularly looking forward to the Col de Turini stages on Sunday: these are unique stages and I've always had a very good feeling with them."
For 27-year-old P-G Andersson Monte Carlo will be his first-ever World Championship event in a World Rally Car. The young Swede has completed around 500 kilometres of testing with the SX4, so he still has to climb a steep learning curve. Nonetheless, the Monte Carlo Rally is not entirely new to him as he competed on the event in 2004 and 2005 with an Ignis Super 1600.
"I can't wait to get started!", said Andersson. "Obviously getting to the finish and gaining more experience will be the priority for me. Going from a Super 1600 car to a World Rally Car is quite a big jump as everything happens so much quicker. It's also important to get the pace notes right: there are some corners that you wouldn't even bother noting in a Super 1600 car but in a World Rally Car you really feel them! It's important for me to have a solid run in Monte Carlo, so that I can go into my home event - the Swedish Rally - with a lot of confidence."
Team principal, Nobuhiro 'Monster' Tajima, said: "As we embark on our full first season, our goal is to make steady progress by taking one step at a time. Results are obviously important, but we cannot get ahead of ourselves either. In our debut year, it's only natural to expect a few minor problems and we're grateful to have a driver of the calibre of Toni Gardemeister to help us improve. P-G Andersson is at the very start of his career, so his job is to learn as well. We all share the common objective of performing to the best of our abilities, and increasing the profile of Suzuki's compact cars all over the world."