Suzuki driver P-G Andersson has won class A6 on the all-gravel Rally Great Britain, beating several more powerful cars and proving once more the pace of the new Swift on fast gravel. Second in class was another Suzuki - the Ignis of Leon Pesticcio. Guy Wilks was third in the other new Swift, after losing time with broken suspension on the opening day.
The event came to a sad and premature end, after an accident claimed the life of Peugeot co-driver Michael Park on the final day.
Great Britain is the 12th rally of the World Championship, and part of Suzuki's six-rally programme outside of the Junior World Rally Championship designed to build up experience and knowledge for the future. It is also something of a home event, as the Swifts receive their final preparations before each rally in Britain in Milton Keynes.
Last year the rally moved to September from its traditional November date, but the traditionally varied British weather was still a key factor in the rally. Rain before the start made conditions extremely slippery on the opening day, but as the rally went on the roads became progressively drier. This made the driving very difficult, as conditions were rarely consistent. Temperatures were also extremely mixed, ranging from just eight degrees centigrade to over 20. Britain is always a fast event, but the drier conditions made it even faster.
Suzuki's objective on this event was to confirm the speed shown on the Swift's gravel debut in Finland, and to collect information for the future. The Swift was regularly beating the much more powerful and turbocharged Group N cars, which also have the benefit of four-wheel drive.
P-G took the class lead on the opening stage, which was the start of a tremendous battle with his team mate Guy Wilks. After Guy was forced to retire on stage five P-G inherited a four-minute class lead. He was able to control his advantage from that point onwards, whilst still pushing hard to take time off the Group N cars. His Swift demonstrated its perfect reliability by encountering no mechanical problems whatsoever, and the reigning Junior champion finished 22nd overall, with a seven-minute class lead.
The Swede said: "The car has been very good indeed - we've had no problems at all. I'm also very happy with the speed of the car, which is proved by the fact that we were taking time off the Group N cars. I love this sort of fast gravel event, and the progressively drying conditions were an interesting new challenge this year."
Guy had a more eventful rally. He took the class lead from his team mate on SS3, but a broken suspension component on SS5 stopped him in his tracks. He was able to re start the rally on leg two under the regulations, with a penalty of five minutes for every stage missed. Apart from a puncture on the second day he also ran reliably to the finish, setting several fastest stage times. On SS14, he took nine seconds out of the fastest Group N car. He ended up 32nd overall and third in class.
Guy, the winner in Great Britain last year, said: "We've had the speed and the ability, but not the chance to make use of it. Throughout the first four stages we were neck and neck with P-G, and I'm sure he is as disappointed as I am that we could not carry on that battle to the finish. Unfortunately a part of the suspension just broke - we didn't hit anything - leaving the car undamaged but undriveable. On the second and third days we were able to set some good times, apart from the stage where we had a puncture, but it wasn't the same as fighting for the lead."
Leon Pesticcio, who drove one round for Suzuki GB’s Dealer Team in the 2004 British Rally Championship, had no problems at all throughout the event and ended up second in class with his Ignis after a fast and reliable run over all three days.
Suzuki Sport President Nobuhiro 'Monster' Tajima reported: "First of all, we would like to say how sad we are about the accident which ended the rally. But also we have to offer congratulations to P-G for yet another well-deserved class victory. We are very happy with the speed of the Swift, which has already shown itself to be entirely reliable and capable of beating cars which are much more powerful. I feel sorry that Guy's problem robbed him of the chance to win his home rally, but I'd like to congratulate Leon Pesticcio for an excellent performance on home territory with his Ignis."
The next round of the Junior World Rally Championship, the Rally Corsica, takes place from 21-23 October. Suzuki has nominated this event as their non points-scoring round, in accordance with JWRC regulations.
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