Suzuki's P-G Andersson has won the Junior World Rally Championship category on the Acropolis Rally Ė ahead of three other Suzukis! The Swede's stunning performance sees him move into the lead of the Championship, with second place for his team mate Guy Wilks giving the Englishman
the Championship runner up spot.
Third in class on the Acropolis Rally was the Ignis of Urmo Aava, ahead of the similar Suzuki of Kosti Katajamaki in fourth. The Ignis of Martin Prokop has finished seventh.
P-G took the lead on the opening leg and held it up until the end of the rally. Having build up a sizeable advantage on the first day, he was able to control his pace to the finish, in a tactical yet dominant victory. Throughout the event, his Ignis was entirely reliable, not giving him the slightest mechanical problem.
The Acropolis Rally is well-known for high temperatures with rough and rocky conditions, making it a gruelling test for both man and machine. This year's event was no exception, as crews battled their way over sharp stones through choking dust. Punctures were a constant risk, yet P-G managed to steer clear of any sort of trouble.
The reigning Junior World Champion said: "This was the perfect rally for me. It got off to a perfect start, as we had a two-day test near Livadia before the rally, which enabled us to fine-tune the car to the very specific demands of this famous event. We did some good work, as the car gave us absolutely no problems at all. Our plan was to push quite hard on the first day, when conditions were not too bad, and then try and conserve the lead over the second and third days, which were quite rough. Luckily this plan worked perfectly and we had no dramas at all. I'd like to thank the team for doing such a solid and professional job: this is certainly one of our most impressive victories."
Guy Wilks had a dramatic start to the rally, when he hit a rock and holed the gearbox casing at the start of day one. He was forced to limp back to service and dropped down to 5th JWRC. There were more dramas for Guy at the end of the day, when he was stuck behind a car with a puncture whose driver could not see him. But this was the start of an epic fightback. With a masterful string of rapid stage times, Guy clawed his way back up the leaderboard. His reward for a spectacular drive was second place in class at the finish, along with second in the championship.
The Englishman reported: "It's not been an easy event, but you never expect that in the Acropolis Rally! It's a pity that we had those problems on the opening day, as I think our subsequent pace shows what we would have been capable of. However, there's no point in speculating on what might have been: I'm very happy to finish second and take the points. It's brilliant for Suzuki to have four cars in the top four: this result just goes to show the strength and speed of the Ignis in these types of very difficult conditions."
Urmo Aava also had no real problems en route to third place. He took second at the end of the first day, when his key rivals hit trouble. Thanks to some quick yet safe driving he was able to keep his position until the final morning. The Estonian was separated from Guy Wilks by only a handful of seconds heading into the last few stages, but Urmo picked up a puncture on the morning of leg three and lost his runner-up spot to Guy. Nonetheless, he is pleased to finish third on one of the most difficult rallies of the season.
Urmo said: "Everything went perfectly until the final morning. I have driven well, our pace notes were good, and the car has been entirely reliable over all three days. I am not sure if we could have kept Guy behind us on the final day or not, but it is always a pity to have these things decided by a punctures (4). I really enjoyed myself though, and the car gave me a lot of confidence in the rough conditions."
Kosti Katajamaki, competing with an Ignis run by Suzuki Sport Europe, battled a flu-like illness throughout the event, and felt so unwell on the final day that his co-driver took the wheel on the road sections. Kosti also suffered from a gearbox problem after hitting a rock on the opening day, so fourth place under the circumstances was an excellent achievement.
"I'm certainly glad this rally is over now!" said the Finn, backed by two-time World Champion Marcus Gronholm
. "From the start we just tried to limit the damage as much as possible. It was very difficult to drive in this intense heat when I was feeling so ill. The car has been very good, and I have to be pleased with fourth place under these difficult conditions."
Suzuki Sports President Nobuhiro 'Monster' Tajima said: "This brilliant victory and fantastic result is a testimony to the continuing strength and pace of the Ignis. We've worked very hard to get to this level and now we've ended up with a car that is extremely tough to beat! That is also thanks to our excellent line-up of drivers, who are real champions of the future. P-G was flawless throughout the rally and Guy was really unlucky, but just as quick. Despite the very difficult conditions everybody performed impeccably."
The Suzuki drivers will be back in action on the next Junior World Rally Championship round, Rally Finland from August 5-7.
Press release Suzuki Motorsport