Suzuki takes away valuable lessons from a rain-swept Argentina
The SX4 WRC of P-G Andersson has scored a manufacturers' point for Suzuki after an extremely challenging event featuring some of the worst conditions in recent memory. Just three stages made up the final day, but
two of them were the most legendary and difficult of the whole event: Giulio Cesare and El Condor. These two stages reach an altitude of more than 2000 metres through the foothills of the Andes.
There is often dense fog, and huge rocks that can catch out the unwary. In these challenging conditions, P-G Andersson set an eighth-fastest time beating many more experienced competitors and hinting at the potential of the SX4 WRC on a clean run with no problems. The Swede's visibility was hampered through the El Condor stage as his windscreen misted up in the damp conditions, but he eventually finished the rally to score a precious manufacturers' point for Suzuki.
Toni Gardemeister re-started the final day in order to rack up some test kilometres, but unfortunately was not able to make the finish.
This year's Rally Argentina which took place in the southern hemisphere's early autumn presented the crews with an unprecedented range of weather conditions, meaning that only eight of the original 14 World Rally Car starters made the finish.
Car news Suzuki SX4 WRC n.11 (Gardemeister), n.12 (Andersson):
Both drivers experimented with set-ups on the soft and wet stages, concentrating on learning as much as possible for the future. The first day of Andersson's rally was halted by a turbo boost pressure sensor failure, while a suspension breakage stopped his consistent run on day two. He got to the end of the final day with no major problems.
Gardemeister had a reliable run on the opening day before hitting a rock that was on the racing line in the afternoon. He re-joined for day two but was held back by a combination of hydraulic and electronic problems that prevented him from completing the leg. The Finn managed to complete most of the stages over the three days of the rally and has acquired some valuable information to help the SX4 WRC's development.
The Suzuki SX4 WRCs arrived in Argentina with some bodywork modifications to cope with the watersplashes, as well as a revised head gasket. Both of these evolutions worked successfully, and the team was able to continue its testing programme on what is still only the fourth event of the SX4 WRC's first full season.
P-G Andersson: "I'm pleased to get to the end of what has been a very tough rally for us. I'm also pleased that we have scored a manufacturers' point for Suzuki, although I would have been even happier if we had been able to score some drivers' points for ourselves as well! We had a good solid run through the Giulio Cesare stage this morning, without pushing too hard, and that indicates the sort of thing we can do when everything is working well. We just have to treat the problems we have experienced here as opportunities to improve and move on. Now we will be working hard in preparation for the next event, Jordan, which is brand new. Nobody starts with an advantage in terms of experience there, so I hope we can do well."
Toni Gardemeister: "We've had a few problems on this event, but the conditions have been even tougher than we expected. The surfaces were extremely slippery, and it was very easy to make a mistake. We just tried to keep the car on the road as much as possible and get to the end. Unfortunately we weren't quite able to manage that, but we learnt several important lessons along the way and we have a very clear idea of the areas in which we can improve."
Nobuhiro Tajima, Suzuki World Rally Team principal: "It's clear that we have a lot of work still ahead of us, and although we are very disappointed we have also been quite unlucky here. The boost pressure sensor that stopped P-G on the opening day is a very small component, and it was very unusual for Toni to find a rock that was right on the racing line. We seem to have solved some of the reliability issues that have affected us in the past, but we need to keep working hard in order to solve all the issues we encounter. Only when we have achieved this will we be able to reach our eventual target of competing regularly amongst the frontrunners."