Corsica - Suzuki Motor Sport - Leg 1
After years of planning, Suzuki's new SX4 World Rally Car saw competitive action for the first time today. Nonetheless, Nicolas Bernardi and his co-driver Jean-Marc Fortin were aiming only to accumulate as much data as possible for the
car's continued development. The action consisted of just five all-asphalt stages today after the first test was cancelled due to spectator overcrowding.
The Suzuki SX4 WRC had a successful run through the two stages in the morning, posting 15th fastest time on SS2 and an extremely encouraging 11th fastest time on SS3 - just outside the top 10.
After service, the crews headed to SS4. Halfway through the stage, Bernardi noticed a warning light that appeared to indicate high water temperature - so he chose to retire from the leg at the end of the stage in order to preserve the car and give Suzuki's engineers the best possible chance of identifying the problem.
The car was recovered to the service area in Ajaccio, where it was discovered that the temperature warning light related to hydraulic fluid rather than water - and that the engine of the SX4 WRC was completely undamaged. Consequently, the car will be back in action Saturday under the SupeRally rules.
Suzuki World Rally Team driver Nicolas Bernardi was pleased by his first experience of the SX4 WRC under competitive conditions - although he emphasised that the accent was firmly on testing.
Bernardi: "We had no problems at all in the morning, which was extremely encouraging but to be honest we were not pushing really hard.
It felt good to set times so close to the top 10 - but this was not at all the objective. On SS4 I noticed a warning light that said the car was overheating, and I called the team to ask for advice. Unfortunately the line was extremely bad and it was not easy to describe the warning light that we had seen. Rather than risk any further engine damage that could compromise our testing campaign, we decided to switch it off. The ironic thing is that this was completely unnecessary. We've learnt a lot of lessons today - but this was not one that we expected!"
The team worked its way through a programme designed to assess the capabilities of the SX4 WRC on asphalt, with positive results.
Nobuhiro Tajima, Team Principal of the Suzuki World Rally Team, commented: "It's been a very exciting day, and I'm proud of the performance of our team under these very challenging conditions. The circumstances of our 'retirement' today were bizarre, but we look at every problem or misunderstanding as just an opportunity to learn more. Before then, the SX4 WRC had shown some very encouraging potential and we hope to continue like this tomorrow."
Source Suzuki Motor Sport