Suzuki Swift driver Guy Wilks is third after the opening day of Germany's Rally Deutschland, round six of the Junior World Rally Championship. His team mate P-G Andersson is fourth, ahead of Kosti Katajamaki who is fifth in an Ignis. Ignis drivers Pavel Valousek and Martin Prokop
are seventh and 11th. In total, there are three Suzukis in the top five!
The first leg of the all-asphalt event consisted of six demanding stages, run over the narrow vineyard roads that flank the Mosel river. The stages were very specific in nature, with several long straights tightening into sharp hairpin bends. This called for excellent performance in terms of traction and braking: two areas where the Swift is particularly strong. Weather conditions were damp in the morning before drying out completely in the afternoon.
Guy was straight onto the pace, but sensibly decided not to push his luck on the notoriously slippery stages of the morning. Despite taking a conservative approach, he was in the thick of the battle for the podium places. In the afternoon, he continued not to take any risks, and comes home this evening in a solid third place.
The Englishman, who leads the championship standings, said: "I took slick tyres in the morning, but a better choice for the first two stages would have been intermediates. I took it nice and easy to get to service, but I was pleased to be in touch with the leaders without pushing hard. The car felt very good, given that it was our first run on asphalt with the Swift. Tomorrow we will see what we can do, but this is a really difficult rally. The stages on leg two have a fearsome reputation, but I'm looking forward to them. They are quite fast, which suits my style!"
P-G Andersson had a more adventurous opening leg. The Swede set off with a good rhythm, but a mistake in his pace notes on SS3 meant that he had a massive overshoot. He recovered in the afternoon, but suffered from a loss of power due to a broken catalytic converter. This problem was fixed at final service, and P-G's Swift will be back to full health tomorrow.
P-G, the reigning Junior World Champion, said: "It was a big mistake in the morning, and it was my fault. At the time when we should have been turning into the corner, we were still travelling at about 120kph! In some ways we were lucky as we did not hit anything substantial, but also we had to stop and reverse for 50 metres to get back onto the road. In the afternoon I had to push hard to make up for lost time, but it was difficult when we were down on power. Tomorrow should be better for us."
Kosti Katajamaki, driving an Ignis run by Suzuki Sport Europe, had no problems today. He had to slow down after another competitor went off in the morning, but apart from that he enjoyed a steady run to the end of leg one.
The Finn commented: "I was actually hoping for rain today as it could have made conditions more equal and allowed us to make a difference. But there was no problem with the dry and you still need 100% concentration. We've had no issues with the car so we're just looking forward to having a go at the tricky stages tomorrow."
Urmo Aava suffered from a problem with the power steering, which sometimes inexplicably tightened. As a result the Estonian was pitched into a low-speed roll on a tight hairpin in the final stage of the day. Some spectators pushed him back onto his wheels and Urmo was able to cmake it to the service still in sixth position. Unfortunately the rollcage was damaged and Urmo can not re- start anymore tomorrow.
The Estonian commented: "I couldn't turn properly because of the power steering problem so I grabbed the handbrake but we hit the side of the road and this put the car onto its roof. Luckily some spectators pushed us back on our wheels and I could continue to the service. I'd like to thank my mechanics – after our crash in the shakedown, and now this roll, they certainly worked hard on this event! Unfortunately the rollcage is damaged so this is the end of the rally for me. It's a real pity I cannot start anymore tomorrow as for the championship I will lose valuable points."
Pavel Valousek set a number of promising stage times in his Ignis to end the day sixth, after going off on the first stage. Ignis driver Martin Prokop broke a rear axle on the final stage. He was unable to make the finish, but will start tomorrow under the super rally system – with a five-minute penalty for missing a stage.
Suzuki Sports president Nobuhiro 'Monster' Tajima said: "Germany was always going to be the toughest asphalt rally for our new Swift to make its sealed-surface debut, as the surfaces and conditions are so inconsistent. Under the circumstances, I think our drivers have done an excellent job. We have seen good speed from the Ignis drivers as well today, which puts us in a good position for tomorrow."
Tomorrow's second leg of the Rally Deutschland is the longest of the entire event, taking in 145 competitive kilometres over seven stages. Weather conditions once again will be unpredictable. The first car leaves Parc Ferme in Trier at 07:00 (CET) and returns to the town at 20:00.
Press release Suzuki Motorsport