Rally Tour de Corse : Suzuki Motorsport
Suzuki Ignis driver Kosti Katajamaki is fourth after the opening day of the Rally de France-Tour de Corse
, round seven of the Junior World Rally Championship. Pavel Valousek is sixth in a similar Ignis, just ahead of Suzuki
driver Urmo Aava. Finally, Martin Prokop is ninth in yet another Ignis. The all-new Suzuki Swifts were not competing in Corsica, as championship regulations require every crew to nominate one round on which they will not score points.
The first leg of the all-asphalt event consisted of just four stages, run in a loop around Corsica's capital city of Ajaccio. The roads were narrow and twisty, with several changes of asphalt surface, making them a massive challenge for every driver. Despite heavy rain leading up to the event, the stages today were dry with temperatures in the afternoon climbing as high as 24 degrees centigrade.
Kosti was competing in Corsica for the first time, and sensibly decided that staying out of trouble would be the best strategy. Like many of his colleagues, the Finn thought that the suspension set-up of his car was a bit too soft in the morning, as it kept on bottoming out over the many bumps. Apart from that he had no problems and enjoyed perfect reliability to end the day in a useful fourth overall.
Kosti, who is currently sixth in the championship with Suzuki Sport Europe, said: "I am quite pleased with our progress. The drivers and cars in front of me are all specialists in these sorts of conditions so to be close to them is quite an achievement. The roads were so bumpy that I even had a couple of problems engaging gears! Tomorrow I would like to continue with this sort of pace, which seems to suit us well.”
Pavel Valousek, driving an Ignis run by JM Engineering, overcame his accident in the shakedown in order to complete a flawless day of driving. The Czech said that the car felt as good as new, and he used it to good effect by coming home well-placed amongst the provisional points finishers.
Pavel reported: "I was very anxious not to make any more mistakes and perhaps this helped to calm down my driving style, so that I got through the day with no real problems. These roads are certainly a massive challenge: one of the biggest difficulties lies in judging the amount of grip available on each corner, as there so many different surface changes. My neck still hurts a bit after the accident yesterday, but there are no problems with the car at all."
Urmo Aava, in a Suzuki Sport Europe-run Ignis
, ran as high as third but was not completely happy with the set-up of his car. However, the Estonian's biggest problem came on the third stage of the day, when he picked up a puncture that he was forced to stop and change.
Urmo commented: "We were quite unlucky with the puncture – we just cut a corner too much – but this has been a very difficult event from start to finish. The suspension set-up of my car was too soft, and I found it very difficult to establish a good rhythm throughout the never-ending sequence of corners. This will be useful experience for the future though, so I am going to take maximum advantage of this event."
The final Ignis
was driven by Czech youngster Martin Prokop, new to both Corsica and the Junior World Rally Championship. His objective was to get through the rally with the firm aim of finishing, in order to learn as much as possible. A trouble-free day, apart from some over-heating brakes, meant that he fulfilled this goal so far.
Martin said: "Today has been very tiring, very difficult, but also very educational. There is so much to take in, and you have to think extremely quickly. It seems incredibly easy to make a mistake or just to get caught out by one of the corners. I'm very glad to get to the finish with no problems, and that is my aim again tomorrow."
Suzuki Sport president Nobuhiro 'Monster' Tajima said: "Four Suzuki Ignis entries started this event and four have got to the finish of day one, which I am very pleased about. The two Citroen C2s are in front, but these are cars that have been very specifically developed for asphalt events such as these. Citroen have a long history of success on asphalt and of course they are reigning World Rally Champions! The conditions in Corsica are not ideal for the Ignis, but our drivers have performed extremely well under pressure and I have every confidence in their abilities."
Tomorrow's second leg of the Rally de France-Tour de Corse follows exactly the same format as the first leg, with two stages in the morning repeated in the afternoon. The first car leaves Parc Ferme in Ajaccio at 08:30 (CET) and returns to the town at 18:15.
Press release Suzuki Motorsport