|2005 FIA Junior World Rally Championship
Round 3 - Rally d'Italy-Sardinia (28 April - 1 May)
Thursday 21 April 2005 - Preview
SUZUKI DRIVERS READY FOR THE ITALIAN JOB
The Rally d'Italia-Sardinia is round three of the Junior World Rally Championship, which is currently led by Suzuki Ignis driver Guy Wilks followed by his team mate
P-G Andersson. The two Suzuki men will be looking to extend their advantage on the all-gravel event, but in the hyper-competitive environment of world rallying this is never an easy task.
|Strong JWRC competition for the Suzuki teams in Sardinia
Sardinia was new to the Junior World Rally Championship last season, but this year's event has a very different look to it. The rally is being held much earlier in the year compared to 2004, and the route has also been substantially revised to make it faster, more open and even more spectacular for the thousands of passionate Italian fans.
The World Rally Championship is famed for its variety and Sardinia's roads offer yet another new surface: soft, almost sandy gravel. The rally contains a wide variety of speeds and corners, but good traction and an optimal suspension set-up is essential to deal with the loose gravel coming out of the many uphill bends. The weather is expected to be generally warm, but as always in spring rain showers are entirely possible.
Reigning Junior World Rally Champion P-G Andersson won in Sardinia last year, leading home a Suzuki one-two-three. The young Swede is naturally looking forward to returning to the scene of his triumph this year. "I really like Sardinia, but it will be basically like a new rally for everyone this time," he said. "I actually think that the improvements the organisers have made to the route should suit my driving style better, as I prefer faster and more flowing events to the sort of tight and twisty stages that we saw on bits of Sardinia last year. My confidence is up after a class-winning result on the Rally New Zealand three weeks ago so I think we have a good chance in Sardinia."
Englishman Guy Wilks, who currently leads the Junior World Rally Championship, said: "I finished second in Sardinia last year, which enabled me to head for the final round of the championship with a good chance of winning the title. It's an event that suits me, and the Ignis is fantastically strong there as well - as our clean sweep of the podium last year shows. I won the last Junior World Championship rally in Mexico but in Sardinia there will be many more top quality rivals, so our task will be even harder. Having said that, I know that Suzuki has given me the equipment to do the job, so the rest is down to me. My aim is to come away from Sardinia still leading the championship. How that works out also depends on what everybody else does, but the only way to be sure is by winning the class!"
Team Director Risto Laine commented: "To some extent Sardinia is another one of those rallies which has several unknown quantities for us - specifically regarding the route and the weather conditions. It's the first event since the start of the season in Monte Carlo where we face a full field of our rivals, so we are not underestimating anything. It will be a very tough fight, particularly because many of our competitors will have improved their cars significantly in the three months since Monte Carlo. The Monte is a very individual event, but Sardinia is the first time that all the Junior crews will meet on a reasonably level playing field. I am expecting it to be our biggest challenge of the year so far."
In addition to the two Monster Sport Europe cars, Suzuki Sport Europe will run a pair of Ignis Super 1600 cars for Kosti Katajamaki and Urmo Aava - who also drove an Ignis last year. Czech team JM Engineering will also run two Ignis entries: for Italian Alan Scorcioni - contesting his home rally in Sardinia - and Czech Pavel Valousek. Finally, there will be another Ignis run by Czech team Jipocar for Martin Prokop.
Kosti Katajamaki commented: "I recently competed on the non-championship Rally of Portugal, and finished second on the opening Junior round of the season in Monte Carlo. These things both give me a lot of confidence, and I'm looking forward to Sardinia. I love fast gravel events so I think we can go well."
Urmo Aava said: "I've got a lot of experience with the Suzuki Ignis now, but I've not always had the most amount of luck. I've driven the car for the last two seasons, but this will be my first rally of 2005. My aim is to drive as quickly as possible without risking my chances of finishing."
Alan Scorcioni reported: "My career with Suzuki got off to a fantastic start with third place in Monte Carlo - my best result to date. I've been amazed by what the car can do, and with some more experience of it I hope I can now come closer to unlocking its ultimate potential. Of course it's very exciting to drive on your home rally, although I would not say that I knew these stages better than anybody else. Being at home gives you an even bigger incentive to try your best!"
Pavel Valousek said: "I scored points in both Monte Carlo and Mexico, which clearly helps my championship situation. My target in Sardinia is to keep this consistency and improve my progress with the car. My co-driver is Italian, so maybe I can benefit from some insider knowledge!"
Martin Prokop commented: "For me, this year is all about gaining experience. I've not done so many kilometres with the Ignis, so I need to build up my speed gradually and make sure of getting to the finish."
The Rally d'Italia-Sardinia gets underway with a ceremonial start in Port Rotondo on Thursday 28 April at 2000 (CET). Crews then go on to tackle 17 special stages totalling 350 kilometres before the finish back in Port Rotondo on Sunday 1 May at 1430 (CET).