Suzuki is hoping for a strong result on Spanish asphalt, as the four Ignis drivers prepare for this weekend's Catalunya Rally, the penultimate round of the Junior World Rally Championship [JWRC].

Two of the four Ignises entered on the event will be painted white to display the colours of Suzuki Iberica: Suzuki's new Spanish distributor.

The cars carrying the new livery will be driven by Daniel Carlsson and local hero Salvador Canellas. The other two Suzukis of Ville-Pertti Teuronen and Urmo Aava will display the familiar yellow Suzuki colour scheme.

This year's Catalunya Rally will be a historic event for Spanish motorsport. Two Spanish drivers come to their home rally in contention for a championship title. One of them is former World Champion Carlos Sainz, hoping to lift his third overall world rally title. The other is Suzuki's own Salvador Canellas, who enters his home rally just three points behind JWRC leader Brice Tirabassi.

Canellas is an asphalt ace who is hoping for an excellent result on home territory. The Spaniard finished second on the last sealed-surface round in Sanremo, and is looking forward to driving in front of his many fans at home.

"I always love driving in Spain," said Canellas, who recently competed on the Spanish Championship's Principe de Asturias rally, driving an Ignis backed by Suzuki Iberica. "We have done a lot of useful testing before the asphalt rallies, so I think we are in good shape."

The Catalunya Rally is quite different from the Sanremo Rally of two weeks ago, which was the JWRC's first taste of 'proper' European mountain roads. The stages are faster, wider, and more flowing - which means that drivers need accurate pace notes in order to describe the quickest lines through corners.

"The Principe de Asturias Rally gave us a lot of relevant data," explained Canellas, whose father won the Catalunya Rally outright in the 1970s. "We also spent a week testing close to the Catalunya Rally route in August."

The Catalunya Rally is based in Lloret de Mar, a seaside town just half an hour's drive from Canellas's home city of Barcelona. Although he has good experience of the event, uncertain weather could make the stage conditions very unpredictable. Rain and fog are a distinct possibility.

A new face in the Suzuki team is Mikko Markkula, who joins as co-driver to Ville-Pertti Teuronen for the rest of the season. Although Markkula is still young, he has a lot of rallying experience alongside the Finnish Championship's most famous drivers. Teuronen's confidence on asphalt is steadily increasing, and he hopes to build on his solid points finish in Sanremo with the help of Markkula.

Daniel Carlsson showed he had the pace to run at the front in Italy before he was forced to retire, while Urmo Aava plans to build up his asphalt experience after an early exit from Sanremo with a mechanical problem.

Suzuki team manager Risto Laine said: "These asphalt events are notoriously unpredictable, but I think we have done as much as we can before the rally. Our testing session in Spain in August gave us a lot of useful data which we will be trying to maximise this weekend. Sanremo showed that the car is quick on sealed surfaces, but we also have to get everybody to the finish! I know that every member of the team will be trying their hardest, and for Salvador his home rally is bound to be a special occasion."

The Catalunya Rally gets underway at 06h45 on Friday October 24, after Ceremonial Start at 19h00 on Thursday evening in Lloret de Mar. Crews then complete no less than 22 twisty special stages before the finish back in Lloret de Mar at 15h09 on Sunday October 26.



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