Rally Mexico proves tough for Suzuki
Both Suzuki SX4 WRCs have been forced to retire from the all-gravel Rally Mexico, after a tough day that took its toll on the engines. P-G Andersson had a promising run through the first three stages of the all-gravel event, setting top-eight times on all of them, but then he noticed a loss of power on the way back to service in Leon. The car made it back, but it was decided that he would not restart so that the engine could be returned to the factory for analysis.

Toni Gardemeister also had engine problems through the opening loop of stages, with intermittent throttle response. He started SS4 in the afternoon, but stopped a few kilometres into the stage. The Finn, contesting his 100th world rally in Mexico, was also forced into retirement. The engines of both cars will be flown back to Japan for detailed examination.

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

The SX4 WRC was competing on only its third full event this season, coming just three weeks after the last rally in Sweden. Although the new Suzuki has scored points on all the rallies it has contested so far this year, the time for testing and development has been short. The demands of Rally Mexico are very specific, with high-altitude stages making the engine work hard on the fast and challenging roads. Mexico was also only the second-ever event on gravel for the Suzuki SX4 WRC, following on from one test event on the Rally Great Britain last year.

P-G Andersson’s car performed well on the opening loop of stages and he returned to service in sixth place: Suzuki’s highest-ever overall placing on a World Rally Championship event. Sadly, his excellent run was not to last as the misfire he experienced on the road section back to service was traced to an engine problem.

Gardemeister also suffered from engine-related issues throughout the opening loop of stages, and the team has resolved to work hard to get to the bottom of these incidents.

Driver news:
Toni Gardemeister: “Unfortunately my 100th rally has been memorable for the wrong reasons! We didn’t really get a chance to show what we were capable of today as from the first stage the engine was down on power and we just had to try and get through the opening loop. It was a strange problem as sometimes there was power and other times there wasn’t. I’ve got every confidence that the team will find out what the problem is; we have to remember that the car is still very new, and we have a lot of work to do.”

P-G Andersson: “The fact that we were sixth when we stopped just goes to show the potential of the whole SX4 WRC package. We had a very good run through the morning’s stages, although the suspension set-up was a little too hard. Considering that we had no testing before the event, I think it was really good. Unfortunately we then had an engine problem, and this is something that we need to sort out. Once that is done though, we will be in a good position. I’m quite confident that we could have taken points here.”

Team news:
Nobuhiro Tajima, Suzuki World Rally Team principal: “I feel so very sorry for both of our drivers, especially Toni who was starting his 100th WRC rally here. This was an incredibly disappointing experience for all of us. As was the case in Monte Carlo and Sweden, we have been stopped by an engine problem and we suspect that it is for a similar reason, although we will only know for sure once we fully examine the cars. It’s clear that we have an issue with the engines, but under the current engine linking regulations we are not permitted to change the engine during or in between the rallies to try and understand the problem. As a new team we want to and we need to improve: but sometimes this is not easy when the rules are not in your favour as a newcomer. It was always going to be tough for us here. Toni did not really have a chance today, but until his retirement P-G was again doing a fantastic job for us. The potential is still very much there and we all have confidence that we will bounce back from this disappointment.”

Day 1 Leaderboard
1. J-M Latvala/M Anttila 1h23m38.6sec
2. S Loeb/D Elena +9.6s
3. C Atkinson/S Prevot +22.4s
4. P Solberg/P Mills +1m01.9s
5. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen +1m10.6s
6. H Solberg/C Menkerud +2m43.6
7. M Wilson/S Martin +2m52.9s
8. F Villagra/J P Companc +5m30.0s
9. R Trivino/C Salom +8m18.6s
10. S Ogier/J Ingrassis +9m13.0s

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