Mixed fortunes for Suzuki in Argentina
The Suzuki World Rally Team has had a day of mixed fortunes on the opening leg of the Rally Argentina, round four of the World Rally Championship. Young Swede P-G Andersson was forced to retire just four kilometres from the opening
stage, as a result of a boost pressure sensor failure. By contrast, Toni Gardemeister enjoyed a reliable run to place his SX4 WRC within the point-scoring positions for the bulk of the day. Unfortunately, during the penultimate stage, he could not avoid hitting a rock on the racing line which led to his retirement from the leg.
Conditions on the Rally Argentina were atrocious in the morning, with heavy rain, thick fog and plenty of mud on the road. As more cars passed through the stages the surfaces broke up, making life extremely difficult for Gardemeister, who started 10th on the road.
Car news Suzuki SX4 WRC n.11 (Gardemeister), n.12 (Andersson):
Suzuki has never tested in Argentina with the World Rally Car previously, so the opening day was a chance for the team to get to grips with the extremely tricky conditions.
Gardemeister refined some suspension settings at midday service in order to improve the handling on the soft stages, and he lost a bit of time in the morning as a broken exhaust prevented him from hearing his pace notes properly. In the afternoon he felt more confident in slightly better conditions, and climbed to a solid seventh place overall before hitting the rock 10 kilometres into SS8. The impact broke the front suspension, and Toni was not able to complete the stage. Nonetheless, he aims to re-start tomorrow under the Super Rally system, with a 10-minute penalty for not completing two stages. He still retains 14th place overall, and is currently only two and a half minutes off the top 10.
P-G will definitely re-start tomorrow in order to continue Suzuki's all-important testing programme and learn as much as possible about these specialised gravel roads. The faulty sensor a minor but crucial component was rapidly fixed, and his SX4 WRC will be at full health tomorrow.
Toni Gardemeister: "Both myself and P-G have actually been very unlucky on this event. In my case I saw a big rock right on the racing line, which is unusual, and I could not help hitting it. Without that problem we would have got to the end of the day safely in seventh, with some good chances of finishing in the top six. Everything is not yet lost though, and we can still come back and achieve something from this event. The conditions today were as difficult as I have ever known them: the surfaces were really slippery and we were struggling for grip all the time. It could be the same again tomorrow, so we have to just try and stay out of trouble and move up the order as best as we can."
P-G Andersson: "Actually what halted us was a very trivial problem, but it meant that we could not do any of the stages today and that was very frustrating. Having said that, I have already drawn a line under today: my rally starts tomorrow. The most important thing now is for me to have time in the car and by the end of the rally I hope we will have achieved that and learned some useful things. It's good that the weather is so bad: it means that we can test the car under extreme conditions."
Nobuhiro Tajima, Suzuki World Rally Team principal: "We knew from the very beginning that this was going to be a tough rally, and this has proved to be the case. Sometimes you learn lessons the hard way. At least now we are hopefully in a position to re-start with both cars tomorrow and continue to increase our knowledge of this event and these very difficult conditions. Toni proved that we had the pace to run comfortably within the points places today under extremely tricky circumstances: now we have to build on this base in order to improve the performance and the reliability. There is still a long way to go, and there are many opportunities ahead of us."