Results after the Rally:
Nikolaus Schelle: now 9th in JWRC
Juha Kangas: now 12th in JWRC
Kazuhiro Niwa: retired on SS18
Two of the three privateer Suzuki Ignis teams yesterday succeeded in their goal of finishing the Catalunya Rally - an event that was watched by an estimated one million spectators.
Suzuki Team Ignis Germany, Suzuki Team Ignis Finland, and Suzuki Team Ignis Japan were celebrating their experiences at the finish of the rally in Lloret de mar, after an intense three days and hundreds of kilometres of red-hot competition.
Suzuki were the only newcomers to get two cars to the finish, as in Monte Carlo.
The cars were reliable throughout the event and the teams were particularly pleased that constant development of the JWRC Ignis is making the Ignis more and more competitive all the time.
Suzuki Team Ignis Finland Manager Risto Laine explained: "Our testing before the event has been incredibly useful. On our last rally, in Monte Carlo, we were about four seconds per kilometre off the pace of the leading car. Here, this gap has been reduced by half to just two seconds. It makes us extremely pleased and encouraged for the future, and it is a big lift for everybody involved. The car still has a lot of potential."
Schelle continued his battle with Doppelreiter on the first stage of the final day finishing it six ahead of his rival. On the following short stage his good work was undone when he spun while pushing hard. But he was soon in front again, preserving his advantage to the finish without taking any unnecessary risks.
At the finish he reported that "The car has been impressive and I was able to set some consistent times."
Kangas experienced intermittent gearbox problems, but the strength of the car allowed him to reach the finish as he had planned. "I've really been able to make some progress on tarmac", he said. "Finns are normally good on gravel, but I am enjoying sealed surfaces too! I'm really enjoying it and am very excited."
Kazuhiro Niwa built on his rally career to date, and enjoyed approaching the pace of his more experienced colleagues. His car ran reliably all day, without any mechanical problems at all. "It is so useful to have this experience now", said the smiling Japanese driver. "We started off our campaign with the objective to learn more about the car and its capabilities and we have succeeded in that."
Niwa came so close to finishing the rally but rolled on the very last stage after mishearing a pace note. He managed to get the car back onto the road, but was just out of time at the stage finish. "I understand now the physical element of world rallying", he said. "I'm already in training for my next event".
The Acropolis Rally from June 13-16 is the next rally of the Junior World Championship, a hot, rough gravel event, totally different to Catalunya.
Three brand new cars are currently being prepared in gravel specification for the Greek event. The teams are eager the get on with the next challenge - and they already have high hopes.Published 3 March 2002