Suzuki SX4 WRC gets underway in Jordan
The Suzuki World Rally Team started the first ever World Rally Championship round in Jordan this evening, when Toni Gardemeister and P-G Andersson drove their Suzuki SX4 WRCs over the ceremonial startline in the Dead Sea area of Jordan, south-west of the nation's capital, Amman.

Both drivers arrive on Jordan Rally with high hopes of taking points from this historic event. They are both aware, however, of the challenge which lies ahead. The drivers will be faced with 22 arduous gravel stages before they reach the finish on Sunday afternoon. And, unusually for this time of the year in Jordan, they will be competing in some of the hottest temperatures of the season. Today's shakedown test was completed with temperatures heading towards 40 degrees. These conditions are expected for the first two days of competition, before the temperature falls to around 25 degrees on Sunday. Sunday promises a real sting in the tail, with two runs of Jordan River - at 41.45km the longest stage of the event - in one of the toughest final days in recent World Rally Championship history.

Car news - Suzuki SX4 WRC n.11 (Gardemeister), n.12 (Andersson):
Never having competed in the Middle East before, Toni Gardemeister and P-G Andersson were both keen to get into the 2.5km shakedown stage, located just north of the service park on the banks of the Dead Sea. Both cars completed their final test before the start without any problems, with Gardemeister and Andersson using the time to conclude their set-up for this fifth round of the World Rally Championship.

Following a successful test at shakedown, both cars went through their final preparation procedure before they were taken up the road to the ceremonial start on the banks of the Dead Sea. Following the start, the two Suzuki SX4 WRCs were locked into parc ferme for the night before the start of the competitive action in the morning.

Driver news:
Toni Gardemeister: "This is something new for me - I've never rallied in these kind of conditions before. The recce showed how precise we are going to have to be on these roads. There are some big rocks right at the side of the stage, rocks which could end the rally. Having said that, in some places you can go 100 metres off the line of the corner and not hit anything, then in the next bend, you couldn't go 10cm too wide without hitting a very big rock. The blind crests are going to be very interesting. You think it's going to be straight after the crest and then there's a square corner right ahead of you - it's very hard to read these roads. I start this event chasing points. I am confident this is possible. Equally, I think this will be an event with plenty of incidents. It's certainly going to be an exciting rally."

P-G Andersson: "The shakedown was good this morning. The team did some work with the transmission, which will help on the rally. I was also pleased with the handling of the car at shakedown. We have made some adjustments to the car and they've worked well. The shakedown road itself wasn't all that representative of the stages to come, so we can't really draw too many conclusions about what to expect, but I'm feeling positive and looking forward to the challenge of this new rally in Jordan. One thing is for sure, the stages will be fast and very tricky in places. On some of the long straights, it's really hard to pick out the road - everything looks grey and with very little definition."

Team news:
Paul Wilding, Suzuki World Rally Team manager: "This has the look of an extremely difficult event. And the weather is going to make it even tougher with temperatures of 40 degrees plus. The recce went very well for us and the drivers are reporting that the stages look nice, with some really fast and hard-packed roads. We are looking forward to this rally and we have prepared well. We have shown that we can be competitive on stages and that's what we want in Jordan. At the same time, we can learn about the set-up of the car in preparation for the next three rallies to come in Sardinia, Greece and Turkey."

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