Suzuki drivers cross the start ramp in Sardinia
The Suzuki SX4 WRC crews of Toni Gardemeister/Tomi Tuominen and P-G Andersson/Jonas Andersson crossed the start ramp in the glittering coastal resort of Porto Cervo this evening to officially begin the Rally d'Italia Sardegna, round six of the World Rally Championship.

The start ceremony was just a prelude to the main action, which will begin tomorrow at 10:23 with the first of 17 all-gravel special stages. Sardinia is renowned for its challenging roads and sharp rocks, and some recent bad weather during the reconnaissance is likely to have damaged the road surfaces even further.

Prior to the start of the event, both drivers completed the short shakedown test close to rally headquarters in Olbia. The shakedown is a last-minute chance to refine the set-up prior to the rally start, and for Suzuki it was a valuable opportunity to test the SX4 WRC on Sardinian gravel.

In total, the event comprises 344.73 kilometres, with the longest stage of the event (the 33.96 kilometres of Crastazza) run twice tomorrow, as SS2 and SS5.

Car news - Suzuki SX4 WRC n.11 (Gardemeister), n.12 (Andersson):
The development of the SX4 WRC has concentrated on durability for this latest round of the World Rally Championship, with several valuable lessons learned from the heat and the rocks of Jordan.

Both cars completed the shakedown stage successfully this morning, although P-G Andersson lost some time with a gearbox glitch. Conditions on the shakedown stage were already quite rough but extra underbody protection introduced since the Jordan Rally should ensure that the SX4 WRC is able to cope with the worst of the punishment - even with more rain expected over the course of the weekend.

Driver news:
Toni Gardemeister: "Sardinia is sure to be a very difficult rally, but that helps the team as it means we learn a lot in these demanding conditions. But I think we're making progress, and the Jordan Rally was very important for that. The shakedown went well for us, although we stalled at the beginning. But after we changed the engine mapping it worked very well actually. The most important thing for us here will be to bring the car to the finish; I think that means we won't be flat-out everywhere."

P-G Andersson: "We had a slight gearbox problem during the shakedown, but that's all fixed now and I'm hoping for a strong performance in what is a rally that I always have a good feeling with. We've done a lot of work on the overall reliability of the car, and this will be the key to scoring some points here I think. It's going to be extremely important to be careful on the second passage through the stages, as that is when rocks can come out of the surface."

Team news:
Paul Wilding, Suzuki World Rally Team manager: "This is going to be an extremely tough rally, and our priority has been to improve the durability of the car. Hopefully we should see the results of that work here in Sardinia. The shakedown stage was already very rough, and I think that gives us a fairly accurate picture of the punishing conditions we can expect over the next three days."

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