The Suzuki World Rally Team will run the second evolution of the SX4 WRC car for the very first time today [Monday], as the team gears up for the start of the second half of the season and this week's Neste Oil Rally Finland.
The Paris-based outfit has been working hard during the break in order to prepare the latest changes to the SX4 WRC, which will be seen for the first time on the ninth round in the World Rally Championship.
"As well as adding extra speed to the car, the accent has been placed firmly on adding reliability in order to consolidate the progress that was made throughout the first half of the season," read a statement to the media.
"In addition, the team has been building two brand new SX4 WRCs from scratch - which incorporate some important weight-saving gains in the bodyshell without compromising strength or stiffness.
"The test on Monday will put all these new components through their paces and act as an extra shakedown for the new cars, whilst giving Suzuki the chance to run on the soft compound Pirelli control tyres that are being used for the first time this year in Finland."
The SX4 WRC 'B' features 'a raft of new parts designed to improve efficiency and performance' and the team is hopeful that the new parts will make the SX4 WRC not only lighter and more reliable, but also increase its level of competitiveness.
"When we test the Suzuki and its new parts on Monday, we will have a better idea of where we are," said number one driver Toni Gardemeister, who unsurprisingly is looking forward to his home event.
"Realistically, many of our rivals still have an advantage over us in terms of engine power - which is quite an important factor in Finland - but also our local knowledge helps. We've always had good speed in Finland in the past, but equally we've been a bit unlucky. I'm feeling confident though: if we can set some times inside the top five I think that shows we are making progress."
Suzuki team boss Nobuhiro 'Monster' Tajima meanwhile is eager to see what his two drivers - Toni Gardemeister and Per-Gunnar Andersson – can achieve on what is one of the best rallies in the WRC.
"Our campaign on the World Rally Championship so far has taught us many tough lessons - which have been a vital part of the learning experience. We now look forward to putting some of these lessons into practice with the latest improvements to the SX4 WRC, on what is the fastest and probably the toughest rally of the year!" he summed-up.