All three privateer members of Team Suzuki Ignis have high hopes for the forthcoming Rally Great Britain which gets underway on Thursday evening (November 14).
The sixth and final round of the Junior World Rally Championship [JWRC] is run through the dank and muddy forests of Wales, testing the two-wheel drive traction of all cars competing to the limit.
The Junior World Champion will not be known until the end of the Rally as at this moment only one point separates the cars currently in first and second positions. And whilst the battle for first will be hard and exciting the three Ignis teams from Finland, Japan and Germany are also hoping for an impressive result.
The last time the three Suzukis were in action was over the sunny asphalt of Sanremo. The wet and foggy conditions of Britain could not present a more different challenge. But the teams are upbeat as the Suzuki Ignis has always been strong and recent testing has enhanced the loose-surface performance even further.
Suzuki Team Finland's Juha Kangas has experience of the Rally Great Britain before, and the young Finnish gravel expert is looking to put that knowledge to good use this weekend.
"The Ignis has demonstrated a lot of potential on gravel already this year, so hopefully we can build on this progress and finish off the season on a high. I am very confident and aiming for a result in the points" he says.
Suzuki Team Germany's Niki Schelle will be on a learning curve, but is determined to make the most of this final opportunity to score points.
"The surfaces in Britain are bound to be very slippery, so it will be easy to make a mistake," said the German, co-driving again with Tanja Geilhausen. "But I want to go as fast as possible, and our gravel development test has highlighted a few areas where we can improve the car."
Gaining experience is the name of the game for Kazuhiko Niwa, the Suzuki Team's Japanese driver. This is his first British event so each day will provide new adventures. "The stages seem very fast and tricky," said Niwa, who is being co-driven for the first time in the JWRC by his compatriot Akihiko Takahashi. "I just want to finish the rally, and take as much knowledge of the event as I can into the future," he says.
The three Ignis have competed on every round of the JWRC this year, but Kangas competed in an extra gravel event - the Rally Finland - in August. The lessons learned from that rally (the last time an Ignis appeared on gravel) should benefit all three cars in Britain.
The Rally Great Britain starts on Thursday 14 November with the Spectator Superspecial in Cardiff docks at 1930 hrs. The cars then complete 16 more stages before the finish back in Cardiff on Sunday afternoon covering 1,019 miles [1,640 km.] overall.Published 17 November 2002