Hallinta Hoop, 4.10.2008
Hallinta Hoop, 4.10.2008
After an unlucky opening leg yesterday - in which P-G Andersson went off the road and Toni Gardemeister picked up a puncture - the Suzuki SX4 WRC drivers have had a trouble-free second day of the Rally de España. Both drivers lost a lot of time with their respective misfortunes yesterday and so today they concentrated on testing set-ups for the next asphalt round in Corsica, which takes place in less than a week's time.
Once more the sealed-surface action was split up into two loops of three stages today, with just one service halt in between them. Whilst the competitive distance of 127 kilometres was not quite as far as the opening leg on Friday, Saturday's stages were renowned as being the trickiest of the entire rally with a number of tight corners and highly technical sections. On this most selective day of the event, neither SX4 WRC experienced any mechanical problems: a sure sign that all the hard work to improve the car's reliability is well and truly paying off.
At the end of the day Toni Gardemeister is 15th and not far off the manufacturer points. P-G Andersson re-started the event under the super rally rules this morning and is still well down the order, thanks to a 25-minute penalty for not having completed five stages following his off on SS2 yesterday.
After a chilly start this morning the weather conditions remained dry and warm for the rest of the day, which meant that the two factory Suzuki crews used Pirelli's hard compound tyres throughout the leg. Tomorrow's final day takes in six more demanding asphalt stages before the finish ramp back in the popular coastal resort of Salou at 15:07.
With their hopes of a top-eight finish ended by bad luck yesterday, the Suzuki drivers concentrated on testing different set-ups throughout today's six stages. In order to bring back the maximum possible amount of development information, neither driver took any risks over the course of the action. Most of the set-up work concentrated on dampers and suspension, although the drivers also spent time evaluating wear on the new Pirelli PZero control tyres with a different range of settings.
Both SX4 WRCs were entirely reliable, and thanks to this consistent form Gardemeister and Andersson were able to make up two and 24 places compared to their start positions this morning respectively.
The information gained today will be extremely useful for the next asphalt round in Corsica, as the leg two itinerary in Spain most closely resembles the conditions that the drivers will encounter on the Mediterranean island next week.
Toni Gardemeister: "We still had a lot of understeer in the morning, which may be related to the way that we use the tyres. The most important thing is that we investigate the reasons why this is happening and try to find a solution. We made some small changes to the set-up in service and these seemed to work well. Tomorrow we will continue to check our findings, and then hopefully we should be in good shape for Corsica. The really positive thing about this event is that so far our car has been extremely reliable: without picking up the puncture yesterday we would have been comfortably in the top 10."
Shusuke Inagaki, Suzuki World Rally Team Director: "We are very pleased to note that our car has been completely reliable over the toughest day of the rally. Today we have concentrated on testing for Corsica, so we have not really been looking at the stage times. It looks like we are on track to bring two cars safely home to the finish which is satisfying for us. But it is also clear that there is plenty more work to do, so this will be our aim for tomorrow."
Leaderboard after Day 2
1. S Loeb/D Elena FRA Citroen C4 2hr 22min 57.2sec
2. D Sordo/M Marti ESP Citroen C4 2hr 23min 24.9sec
3. F Duval/P Pivato BEL Ford Focus RS 2hr 23min 48.6sec
4. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen FIN Ford Focus RS 2hr 24min 01.8sec
5. P Solberg/P Mills NOR Subaru Impreza 2hr 26min 04.1sec
6. U Aava/K Sikk EST Citroen C4 2hr 26min 05.5sec
7. C Atkinson/S Prévot AUS Subaru Impreza 2hr 26min 39.9sec
8. J-M Latvala/M Anttila FIN Ford Focus RS 2hr 26min 43.3sec
9. A Mikkelsen/O Floene NOR Ford Focus RS 2hr 27min 14.4sec
10 M Wilson/S Martin GBR Ford Focus RS 2hr 29min 23.0sec