Despite notching up its best-ever result in the World Rally Championship last time out in New Zealand, Suzuki is expecting things to be a lot tougher this week as the series heads to Spain and back to asphalt.

Suzuki will start the event with the same base set-up that it utilised in Germany just over a month ago - the last time competitors competed on sealed surface roads - and while all of the team were encouraged when Toni Gardemeister scored a valuable manufacturers' point in Trier, the Rally de Espana is very different.

Indeed it is a more 'normal' asphalt event and the stages tend to be a lot smoother and quicker. Accurate pace notes are also a must in Spain, as the racing line must be described as precisely as possible to shave off the vital tenths of a second that make the difference between winning and losing.

"Catalunya will be a very difficult rally for us, as it is extremely fast and there is a lot of strong opposition," said Shusuke Inagaki, the director of the Suzuki World Rally Team, ahead of what is only the SX4 WRC cars fourth outing on the 'black stuff'.

"The priority will be to sustain the level of reliability we have recently shown and try out some new asphalt settings, which will be extremely useful when we move on to Corsica just one weekend later.

"After Germany we came up with a few ideas as to how the car could be improved on asphalt. In Spain we will now have the chance to see if those ideas will work. It's a very big challenge but that is why we are here."

Toni Gardemeister and Per-Gunnar Andersson meanwhile are both a bit more optimistic and while the former has only done the event around Salou once, he has done five Catalunya rallies in total.

"I've not driven the Catalunya Rally since 2005, so I don't really know what to expect. It's an event that I like, but it's not always liked me in the past!" said Toni. "For some reason we've often had little problems on this rally that have prevented us from getting a good result.

"It won't be easy because we have many opponents, but if we have a good level of reliability I think that we can score points."

Andersson in contrast has fond memories of the Catalunya stages after claiming his first Junior World Rally Championship win on asphalt in Spain in 2004. The young Swede - the reigning Junior World Rally champion - took the J-WRC honours again last year in Spain and is also aiming for a top-eight result.

"There are a number of things to look out for on this rally, in particular the way to cut the corners. If you cut the corners too deeply you can damage the car but if you do not cut them enough then your stage time will be slow.

"We've got some small improvements on the SX4 WRC for this event including some new differential settings, which should make it easier to drive. I still don't have a lot of experience on asphalt but I think we can have a good run," the 28 year-old summed-up.

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