Suzuki are confident of a strong performance on the all-new Rallye Deutschland, first time in the World rally Championship, after a trouble-free test last Sunday. All three privateer Suzuki teams - from Finland, Germany and Japan - are delighted with their preparations for the fourth round of the Junior World Championship, which is based in Trier, Germany, from August 22-25.
The pre-event test took place over one day on an old airfield near Bitburg. This is similar to the terrain on day two of the Rallye Deutschland, which takes place over the rough Baumholder military ranges. Conditions on the test were baking hot (28 degrees centigrade) but none of the three teams reported a single problem throughout the day. In total, drivers Niki Schelle, Juha Kangas and Kazuhiro Niwa completed around 120 kilometres.
The main purpose of the test was to ensure reliability, and also to evaluate appropriate set-ups. The Rallye Deutschland is unique: surfaces vary considerably from leg to leg, and some areas of the rally are more reminiscent of a gravel rally than an asphalt event. The Baumholder military ranges, used for leg two, are characterised by concrete roads which were originally designed for testing the army's tanks.
The Suzuki's which will be rallied in Germany are built to the latest homologation, with a new steering rack, new gearbox, and improved exhaust manifold. The gear ratios provide better torque and acceleration, with the result that the top speed of the Ignis on the Rallye Deutschland will be about 170km/h.
For Niki Schelle, the Rallye Deutschland marks his home World Championship event. He has already tasted success on the Rallye Deutschland in the past, winning the Formula 2 category twice in an Opel Astra kit car. He said: "I'm aiming to finish in the points. I know this rally very well, and the car is performing brilliantly. Suzuki have worked very hard and the result is amazing. The car is very good and I was able to find the right set-up."
For the other two drivers, Deutschland will be a new experience. They face the additional challenge of making the mental transition to asphalt after completing two gravel rallies in Greece and Finland. Kangas said: "I'm looking forward to Deutschland. The progress we have made since our last asphalt rally in Catalunya is considerable. The car is a lot more precise now, and this will help us in Germany's constantly changing conditions."
Niwa is continuing his learning process and is delighted by the chance to gain more experience on asphalt. "I'm sure it will be a very difficult rally," he said. "But my confidence in the car is growing with every event."
This is mostly down to the hard work of the technical team at Suzuki Sport, who have made great steps forward in less than four rallies. Charlie Nichol, technical chief engineer at Suzuki Sport Europe, commented: "We have been working like hell since Monte Carlo. After the first rally we made a 'to-do' list - it contained over 60 items! We did them all before Greece. Now we have a smaller list of things to do, and we're working on them. We need time for testing and development, but we are slowly improving the car and I think we will see the first results of our efforts in Germany."
The Rallye Deutschland has a ceremonial start in Trier on Thursday evening (August 22). The cars then cover 415 competitive kilometres over 23 stages before the finish on Sunday afternoon (August 25) back in Trier.Published 20 August 2002