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Suzuki World Rally Team delighted by points finish on Monte Carlo debut
Toni Gardemeister was on course to join his team mate in a points-scoring finish, having completed all but five special stages of this challenging event. Unfortunately the Finn was forced into retirement at the very end of the penultimate day, but he too managed to set a sixth-fastest stage time and prove that the new Suzuki SX4 WRC has the pace to run towards the front. The final day's action saw the crew’s complete two loops of stages over the legendary Col de Turini, where thousands of spectators traditionally gather to cheer on their heroes. Andersson concentrated on consolidating Suzuki's first point’s finish, before the rally concluded with a spectator superspecial stage using parts of Monaco's famous Formula 1 Grand Prix circuit.
P-G Andersson was delighted by his World Rally Car debut after only 500 kilometres of testing before the start of the rally - meaning that he has doubled his time in the car over just the space of the Monte Carlo Rally. As well as learning more about the SX4 WRC, he also improved his driving technique considerably over all four days of the event.
The 27 year-old, who won the Junior World Rally Championship with Suzuki for the second time last year, said: "There's a lot to learn, but I've really enjoyed it and I couldn't have asked for more. To score points on my debut with a brand-new car is a truly fantastic result. My four-wheel drive experience before this event was limited to just a few rallies in a Group N car and some tests, so for me this rally has been all about learning to use the speed and traction of a World Rally Car. There's a lot more to come from both me and the car though. It was very important for me to get a good result here as it means I can head into the next round - my home rally in Sweden - with a very positive frame of mind."
The experienced Toni Gardemeister, driving on his ninth Monte Carlo Rally, was also pleased with his Suzuki debut despite being forced into retirement. The 32 year-old Finn commented: "Without the problems that we unfortunately encountered, we would have been fighting for points here - which I knew was possible from the start and P-G has also proved with his excellent performance. It's clear that the car has a lot of potential, so actually I'm very happy. Now that the season is underway, we have to keep working hard to improve the car all the time. Our next rally is Sweden, which I like a lot. If we can find a good rhythm, it's certainly possible for us to do well there."
The Suzuki squad worked extremely well together during their first rally as a two-car team, headed up by team principal Nobuhiro 'Monster' Tajima, team director Yutaka Awazuhara, technical manager Shusuke Inagaki and team manager Akira Kawada.
Tajima commented: "This rally has been an incredibly proud moment for Suzuki as we embark on our world rally dream. I would like to congratulate P-G and Toni on doing a fantastic job: for P-G to finish in the points in his first rally in a World Rally Car is incredible. I feel very sorry for Toni: he also did an amazing job and it was sad to see him retire. As well as the drivers, I would also like to thank the entire team: this achievement of scoring a point in our very first rally is entirely down to the fact that everybody has been able to work together easily straight away. We are very happy, but our philosophy at Suzuki is always to look forwards rather than back. Already the Monte Carlo Rally is a fantastic memory: now we are fully focussed in working towards the Swedish Rally in two week's time, where our objective will be to try and finish in the points again - this time with both cars. Of course it won't be easy, as the path to success is never smooth. But we can promise our complete commitment, as I hope we have already demonstrated so far. This has been a fantastic result, which was also down to the valued support of our sponsors.
Congratulations to everybody!"
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