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Andersson in provisional podium in Wales.

The Suzuki World Rally Team enjoyed arguably its strongest leg of the World Rally Championship season after Per-Gunnar Andersson ended day one of Wales Rally GB in a podium position.

On a challenging day in the Welsh forests, where the stage mileage was drastically cut and both runs through the 3.67km Hafren 2 stage were cancelled due to icy conditions, Andersson was able to show the potential of the Suzuki SX4 WRC to run towards the head of the field.

Despite the slippery conditions which caught out a number of the leading drivers, including Ford's Mikko Hirvonen, Andersson made it through day one without putting a foot wrong and returned to service little more than 20 seconds behind leader Jari-Matti Latvala, and under ten seconds behind WRC champion Sebastien Loeb.

"It's been a great day today, and I am very proud to be on the podium overnight; the first time that this has happened for me or Suzuki with the SX4 WRC," the Swede said. "This just goes to show that all the hard work we have put in over the year is really starting to pay off.

"Conditions today have been as bad as I can remember on the Rally GB: even the road sections were slippery! But I've really enjoyed today and I am aiming for another strong run tomorrow."

Team-mate Toni Gardemeister lost time with a misting-up windscreen and dropped down to eleventh place overnight but was also happy with the performance of his car, while team director Shusuke Inagaki was delighted to see the SX4 on the pace.

"The areas of ice were completely unpredictable, making for one of the most difficult rallies of the season," he said. "In these very tough conditions, our SX4 WRC proved that it was capable of fighting with the world's best and finishing on the provisional podium.

"Of course there is still a very long way to go over the next two days so we hope to capitalise upon this very promising start."


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