One point for Suzuki
The final day of Rallye Deutschland - arguably the toughest asphalt round of the entire World Rally Championship - saw both Suzuki SX4 WRCs make it safely to the finish in Trier, having enjoyed a reliable run throughout the 352 competitive kilometres
which made up the event.
Day three consisted of five stages, concluding with a spectator superspecial around the Porta Nigra in the centre of Trier before the final finish podium. The roads were more similar to the classic asphalt rallies of Spain and Corsica that will come later in the season, providing Suzuki with a valuable testing opportunity through the fast and flowing stages.
At the end of the rally, 10th place for Toni Gardemeister earned Suzuki a precious manufacturers' point, while P-G Andersson finished 15th overall after losing time Saturday following an impact with the side of the road.
More importantly, Rallye Deutschland allowed Suzuki to prepare for the forthcoming asphalt rounds that characterise the end of the season, in addition to carrying out some useful test work. With the last outing on sealed surfaces having taken place seven months ago at the season-opening Monte Carlo Rally (in which P-G Andersson scored a point) both the team and the drivers learnt a lot about the latest development of the SX4 WRC in Germany.
A reliable run throughout the rally underlined the work that has taken place to improve the car's consistency as well as its performance, and the Suzuki World Rally Team is now upbeat heading to the next round on the other side of the world in New Zealand in two weeks' time.
The drivers refined the asphalt set-up on the car throughout the three days of the event, helped by the fact that Rallye Deutschland contains a wide variety of different sealed surfaces. In particular, there was plenty of useful progress made on the suspension settings of the SX4 WRC.
The final day saw both drivers concentrate on bringing their cars to the finish. Temperatures were slightly cooler than they had been on the previous days, so both cars used Pirellišs soft compound rubber. Once more neither car encountered any mechanical problems on Sunday. Both drivers were able to set some competitive stage times, with Gardemeister going seventh quickest on SS15: a positive sign for the future.
"I've been happy with the car on this rally. This is the second event in a row where we have had virtually no problems and a clean run to the finish. The reliability is at a good level now, which means that we can begin to work more on the speed of the car. If you compare the amount of running our car has had with the other WRC cars, we are making quite good progress. This is probably the most difficult of all the asphalt rallies, so to come away with a manufacturers' point is a good result. I'm feeling reasonably optimistic for the other asphalt rounds in Spain and Corsica now. Today I really enjoyed myself."
"We had no problems today: we just concentrated on taking it steady and getting to the finish. The rally was a very valuable experience for both me and the team, but I suffered a bit from inexperience. I haven't driven on this event since 2005 and not on asphalt since January and this is the sort of rally where you need to have full confidence in order to push to the maximum. It's a pity that we hit the side of the road yesterday (Saturday) and broke a driveshaft: without that problem I think we could have been in the top 10. It's been a very useful three days and we've taken away a lot of information that will be extremely useful to us for the future."
Paul Wilding, Suzuki World Rally Team Manager:
"This has been a very positive event for us and it's great to have two cars at the finish of such a tough rally. The consistency we have demonstrated here shows that all the hard work is paying off, and puts us in a strong position to build on our solid progress throughout the remaining rounds of the championship, on both gravel and asphalt."