Katajamaki Takes Asphalt Podium For Suzuki

Suzuki congratulates the Citroen team and Daniel Sordo on their title win in the Junior World Rally Championship finale in the all-asphalt Catalunuya Rally. Suzuki Swift driver Guy Wilks had started with a slim chance of claiming the title if he won the rally with Sordo finishing eighth or lower. However, while the Englishman finished day one in the lead, he lost out when he rolled on SS8 after being caught out by a slippery corner. The other Swift of P-G Andersson also crashed out of contention on the first day, but both new cars proved that they had the asphalt pace of the Citroens.

Meanwhile Ignis driver Kosti Katajamaki finished second to Sordo and the similar car of Urmo Aava was fourth, in front of the Ignis of Martin Prokop in fifth and Pavel Valousek's Ignis in sixth.

"I’m deeply disappointed, both for myself and the team," said Wilks. "It was just one of those mistakes, but this time it had more far-reaching consequences. The road was extremely slippery, and the back of the car was gone before I knew it. In any case a title is won over the course of an entire season rather than a single rally, so I’d like to congratulate Dani and I look forward to trying to take the title off him next year."

Kosti ended the opening day in third and climbed to second at the end of day two. On the final leg - characterised by dry weather and smooth roads - he maintained his pace to the finish, to score his second podium on asphalt in two weeks. The Suzuki Sport Europe driver had no mechanical problems at all throughout the three days of Catalunya: the fastest asphalt rally of the entire calendar.

"I've really enjoyed it," said the Finn, backed by two-time World Champion Marcus Gronholm. "On the second and third day it was really about looking after my advantage rather than pushing hard - although I did think that Baldacci might catch me. In any case, I was helped by an Ignis that was very easy to drive and gave me no reliability worries at all. You need a bit of luck on these asphalt rallies, particularly when you cut corners. It is very easy to pick up a puncture but luckily we managed to avoid them and we had no real problems."

Urmo Aava was fourth, despite a fraught final day. Having made repairs to a damaged driveshaft in the morning, he accidentally forgot to release his handbrake on the road section and wore out his rear brakes on the way to the two opening stages. He had to complete these stages with no rear brakes or handbrake before getting the problem fixed at service. He also had to contend with two punctures on Friday and Saturday, which cost him a lot of time.

The Estonian, driving an Ignis run by Suzuki Sport Europe, reported: "We've been a bit unlucky on this rally and I think we would have had a good chance of the podium without all our problems. This has been a very long and difficult event for us, so we are pleased to come away with some points. We were a bit uncertain of the handling of the car earlier, but we made some set-up changes and towards the end it definitely felt better."

Czech youngster Martin Prokop scored the best result of his career with fifth place, having fulfilled his objective to learn more about the event and the car. He started off carefully but increased his speed as his confidence grew. The only problem he encountered was overheating brakes: a common complaint on the fast roads of Catalunya. "I'm delighted," he said. "This is a fantastic way to end the season and I hope I can capitalise upon all the experience I have gained this year."

After an accident on the final stage of leg two, again linked to overheating brakes, Pavel Valousek re-started leg three under the super rally system. Wanting to avoid more trouble he drove cautiously, and was rewarded with sixth place.

Suzuki Sport president Nobuhiro 'Monster' Tajima said: "Congratulations to Kosti and all the other Ignis drivers for a successful end to a successful season! Unfortunately we could not get either Swift to the end, but our new car has still shown enough pace on asphalt to rival the Citroens, which are the established benchmark on this surface. I am very pleased with the Swift's progress and I hope that we can continue to build on it next year."

Published 3 November 2005 Melanie Carter

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