The all-gravel Rally Finland, which marks the debut of the all-new Suzuki Swift, is round five of the Junior World Rally Championship and is renowned for being the fastest and most fearsome event on the entire calendar. Suzuki drivers P-G Andersson and Guy Wilks are first and second in the championship, and both are upbeat about their chances after a successful three-day test with the Swift on roads similar to those that will be used on the rally.
P-G and Guy racked up more than 500 kilometres of fault-free running during the test, which was aimed at adjusting the Swift's set-up to the specific demands of the Finnish stages. Throughout the test the Swift was entirely reliable, with no mechanical problems whatsoever. Both drivers, as well as the team management, were delighted by the results of the test that puts the Swift firmly on course to succeed in Suzuki's stated objective of winning its first event.
Finland is known as the spiritual home of rallying, where cars leap through the air over the many rollercoaster crests. It is estimated that a fifth of the country's population turn out to watch the rally, which is held around the university town of Jyvaskyla. The surface is hard and compacted gravel, which is almost as smooth as a motorway - giving the event its nickname, 'the Finnish Grand Prix'.
Reigning Junior World Rally Champion P-G Andersson is determined to give the Swift a debut win on an event he loves. "Finland suits my driving style really well and it should also be very well suited to the Swift," said the Swede. "There's probably nowhere more challenging for the car to make its debut. We've found a suspension set-up that will work really well on the flat-out roads and will allow me to attack to the maximum. I'm really looking forward to giving it my best shot."
Englishman Guy Wilks, who is also an expert on the flat-out terrain of Finland, said: "It's hard not to get over-excited about this car. I think we can do very well and I can't wait to see what it's like in competition. Our test was crucial, as it allowed us to find ways to optimise the Swift to the conditions in Finland - a rally where the right set-up is always very important."
Team manager Risto Laine commented: "The test was perfect - we had no problems whatsoever and we are very much looking forward to the start of the rally. It was a routine pre-event test, which meant that our focus was on making the car perfect for the conditions. We were not expecting any problems, and we did not have them. We're confident that the results of our tests have proved that we are fast enough to win, but there is no substitute for the real heat of competition."
Suzuki Sports President Nobuhiro "Monster" Tajima added: "The Swift has made a step forward in every area, particularly in suspension. Finland will be a tough test, as it is the fastest rally and one that every driver wants to win. Speaking as a driver myself, I know just how excited P-G and Guy will be feeling. It's an excitement that we all share in the Suzuki family, as we start the next chapter of our motorsport history."
In addition to the two Monster Sport Europe cars, Suzuki Sport Europe will run a pair of Ignis Super 1600 cars for Kosti Katajamaki and Urmo Aava - who also drove the Ignis last year. Czech team JM Engineering will additionally run two Ignis entries for Italian Alan Scorcioni and Czech Pavel Valousek. Finally, there will be another Ignis run by Czech team Jipocar for Martin Prokop.
There are two additional Suzuki Ignis in class A6: young Swede Peter Zachrisson and British driver Leon Pesticcio with the Ignis of Guy Wilks that won the British championship 2004.
The Rally Finland gets underway with a ceremonial start and superspecial stage at the Killeri trotting track near Jyvaskyla on Thursday 4 August at 1900 (CET). Crews then go on to tackle 21 special stages totalling 355 kilometres before the finish back in Jyvaskyla on Sunday 7 August at 1430 (CET).Published 4 August 2005