All Suzuki junior drivers were present for arguably the most challenging rally of the 2009 season; The Jyvaskyla based Rally Finland.
This event was to be the final round of the 2009 season for Suzuki driver Michal Kosciuszko. Needing an overall win in this event and a zero
points finish for his rival; Citroen driver Martin Prokop (who still had one more rally remaining) in order to clinch the Junior title and fellow Suzuki driver Aaron Burkart needing to beat Prokop on both rounds, the Suzuki duo had a tough job to do.
Day 1: Prokop and local JWRC guest driver; Kalle Pinomaki in a Renault Clio R3 led the junior drivers from early on with Kosciuszko close behind them until SS7 when Kosciuszko suffered two punctures and dropped to 6th place. Simone Bertolotti in a third Suzuki Swift had a learning day to suit his driving style, unfortunately leaving the road on SS9, losing 90 seconds and finishing Day 1 in 8th place. Yoanne Bonato in the final Suzuki Swift S1600 moved up to 3rd with fellow Suzuki driver Burkart 22.5seconds behind him in 4th.
Day 2 consisted of 9 special stages in total. With many stages repeated, the surface on the second time through had deteriorated considerably. Kosciuszko opting for a no risk approach tried his best to close the gap and managed to finish the day back in 3rd place. Burkart tried hard to push Pinomaki for 2nd place but got a puncture and a broken damper for his efforts and dropped back to 4th. Bertolotti was caught out by a rock on SS19 breaking a driveshaft but was able to make it back to service. Bonato was an unfortunate retirement to the event after going off the road in SS11. The end of the day saw Prokop in the lead with Kosciuszko 3mins and 22.3 seconds behind him in 3rd. Followed by fellow Suzuki driver Burkart a further 36 seconds astray in 4th and Bertolotti in 6th.
Day 3 comprised of only 3 special stages after SS22 was cancelled. The positions remained the same with all drivers concentrating on finishing the event without risk. At the end, Prokop was the winner, with Pinomaki 2nd and Kosciuszko taking the final podium spot in 3rd. Burkart and Bertolotti finished 4th and 6th respectively.
The JWRC title for 2009 has been won by Martin Prokop, but the impressive performances of Michal Kosciuszko will assure him of a JWRC 2009 championship podium spot after the final event of the season in Spain is run. Burkart and Bertolotti will tackle the final event in Spain where 2nd place in the final points standings could still be taken by Burkart if he wins the event.
"Compared with last year, it was a good rally for us and we were able to make some competitive time. At the end, Martin won the championship title but my Suzuki Swift S1600 was very nice to drive and I have gained more confidence with it now. It was bad luck to have the puncture and disappointing to finish in 4th place but now we have to concentrate on the next tarmac event."
"We had no problem with our Swift S1600. Sure, I wanted to fight for the overall win but unfortunately, we had troubles with punctures on Friday so the only thing I could do was try to catch Aaron. Looking back at this year, it was a good year for me because I had five podiums, but unfortunate to have the one mistake in Poland where we really lost the chance for the championship title."
“Since Rally Poland, I have tried many things; different set ups and changes to my driving style. In the beginning it was difficult for me but I am happy with my car and happy that I could finish this event making solid improvement over each day. I have one more rally remaining, it is tarmac and I like tarmac more than gravel so I will do my best in Catalunya.”
Yasuhiro Ishii, Team Manager
"It is really shame that we were not able to secure a 3rd Championship Title for Suzuki this weekend. We have tried very hard and our young drivers have improved immensely throughout this event. Looking forward though, we began the year strongly on the tarmac in Rally Ireland finishing in 1st place and our target will be to finish the season off with a strong finish on the Tarmac of Spain."