Suzuki drivers make a solid start in Sardinia
Rally d¹Italia Sardegna (I), Friday 16 May, day one (SS1-SS6)

Both Suzuki drivers have made a solid start to the Rally d¹Italia Sardegna,round six of the World Rally Championship. Toni Gardemeister returned tofinal service at the harbourside in Olbia occupying a provisional 10thposition, while his team mate P-G Andersson was about nine seconds behindhim in 11th. The crews were greeted by cooler conditions than were expectedon Italy¹s round of the World Championship, and stages that had been madeextremely slippery by recent heavy rainfall.

The Suzuki crews made a cautious start on the opening stage, butGardemeister was up to an impressive sixth by the end of SS2 and arrived atmidday service in a point-scoring eighth. Both cars have reached the finishof day one with no major problems and are poised to improve on theirpositions over the challenging leg two tomorrow.

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

Both cars were largely reliable throughout the day¹s six stages, despite theextremely rough conditions. Toni encountered some small gear selectionproblems throughout the day but otherwise had a clean run to the finish,while P-G struggled with a slight front brake problem. Thanks to some of theimprovements introduced since the Jordan Rally, there were no other issueswith the cars all day: a promising sign that the decision to concentrate onreliability is yielding results.

Driver news:
Toni Gardemeister: ³Today has actually been a very good day for us. To besixth fastest and sixth overall at the end of the longest stage of the rallythis morning was very encouraging. We had a few problems with the downshiftson the gearbox all day, but really nothing major. I just tried to be verysmooth and precise on these stages, because if you go off the line then itis easy to have a puncture or hit a rock.²

P-G Andersson: ³It¹s been a steady start to the rally, but these stages arevery difficult. Maybe it¹s because of the changing level of grip, or maybebecause the roads are so narrow, but it¹s been hard to find a good rhythm.It¹s been very slippery as well ­ a bit more than I expected. I had aproblem with the brakes in the afternoon, but our objective has been to stayout of trouble and so far I think we¹ve managed to achieve that. If we keepthe same level of reliability tomorrow, then I¹m confident that we can moveup the order.²

Team news:
Paul Wilding, Suzuki World Rally Team manager: ³We¹re very pleased with theresult at the end of the first day. The team has achieved its goal in theseunusually rough conditions, and we have been able to learn a lot. We lookforward to building on this solid foundation tomorrow, which will be thelongest day of the rally and every bit as challenging as the conditions wefaced today.²

Leaderboard after Day 1
1. S Loeb/D Elena 1hr 31min 27.6sec
2. D Sordo/M Marti 1hr 32min 03.3sec
3. P Solberg/P Mills 1hr 32min 21.4sec
4. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen 1hr 32min 26.5sec
5. C Atkinson/S Prévot 1hr 32min 36.6sec
6. G Galli/G Bernacchini 1hr 32min 39.9sec
7. J-M Latvala/M Anttila 1hr 32min 58.7sec
8. H Solberg/C Menkerud 1hr 33min 20.1sec
9. U Aava/K Sikk 1hr 33min 47.4sec
10 T Gardemeister/T Tuominen 1hr 33min 50.5sec

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