Gardemeister in the points for Suzuki at end of day one
Toni Gardemeister during day one of Uddeholm Swedish Rally.

On just the second event of its full World Rally Championship career, Toni Gardemeister has driven the Suzuki SX4 WRC to a promising eighth position after day one of the Swedish Rally.

His team mate P-G Andersson was seventh after the opening stages of the event, but he was forced to stop on SS4 because of a faulty head gasket that had caused further engine damage. Gardemeister was forced to battle special stages that were made slippery by a comparative lack of snow, causing muddy and gravelly patches of road. The conditions got worse when the initial loop of three stages in the morning was repeated during the afternoon, and the Finn also had to deal with a hydraulic problem. The day concluded with a final run through the spectator superspecial near Karlstad, in front of thousands of excited fans.

Gardemeister aims to continue making solid progress through the six stages that make up tomorrow’s action, which are once again split into two loops of three.

Car news – Suzuki SX4 WRC n.11 (Gardemeister), n.12 (Andersson):

P-G Andersson got off to a solid start, finishing ninth then seventh fastest on the opening two forest stages. Unfortunately, the young Swede did not get the chance to climb further up the leaderboard on his home event as his car stopped during SS4. The problem was traced to a faulty head gasket from the same batch that led to Gardemeister’s retirement from the Monte Carlo Rally under similar circumstances.

The Finn thought that the suspension of his SX4 WRC was too stiff in the morning, as the set-up had been established during Suzuki’s pre-event test in the north of Sweden on roads with full snow. During the service halt, the mechanics were able to soften the suspension to better suit the gravelly road conditions of the afternoon. However, Gardemeister then suffered a hydraulic failure, meaning that his SX4 WRC was deprived of its automatic gearshift and centre differential throughout the afternoon. Nonetheless, he ends the day in a points-scoring place.

Driver news:
Toni Gardemeister: “The road conditions have been far from easy but we have been learning more with every kilometre and this is all useful knowledge for the future. After we softened the suspension the car felt better, but then we had the hydraulic problem. I’m quite happy to be in eighth place at the end of the first day, as we are now in a strong position to improve from here.”

P-G Andersson: “This is not what I was hoping from my home rally, but with any new car you have to accept that problems can occur. This was only my second event with the car and I’m happy with the pace we were able to show, which I think was good enough to finish in the points. Now we have to get to the bottom of what happened in order to make sure it doesn’t happen again: this is all part of the learning process.”

Team news:
Nobuhiro Tajima, Suzuki World Rally Team principal: “The rally route has been very difficult today as we expected, so we are all having to learn fast. This is only our second event, and already we have faced a wide variety of challenges. I feel extremely sorry for P-G, who certainly deserved more than this on his home event, after scoring a point for us in Monte Carlo. Under the rules we could not change the engine and while this is fair enough for the established teams, for us as a newcomer it makes the learning process even more challenging. Now we have had two retirements caused by the same problem, which we have not been allowed to solve during the events. Toni has been doing a very good job under tricky circumstances: if he carries on like this we will be able to meet our target of another points finish in our first two rallies. This would be an excellent achievement.”

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