Suzuki driver Per-Gunnar Andersson has claimed his second Junior World Rally Championship [JWRC] victory on the trot, leading home a Suzuki one-two today in Finland.

The young Swede won a tight battle for the lead against his colleague Kosti Katajamaki, while another Ignis of Mirco Baldacci was robbed of a podium place after a puncture on the last stage. Baldacci ended up fourth, ahead of the 2003-specification Ignis of Urmo Aava in fifth, making it another highly successful event for Suzuki!

Andersson now lies only three points behind championship leader Nicolas Bernardi.

The Rally Finland, round four of the JWRC, was characterised by rapid gravel roads and massive crests, making it the most spectacular rally of the year. Conditions remained dry and warm throughout all three days.

In addition to the JWRC runners, the 2004-specification Suzuki Ignis Super 1600 cars of Jukka Ketomaki and Jussi Valimaki finished 5th and 8th respectively in the A6 category after a fast and reliable run.

Unfortunately, the Ignis Super 1600s of Guy Wilks and Jari-Matti Latvala were forced to retire on the opening day after going off the road.

Baldacci enjoyed the final three stages, before hitting problems on the last one. He built up his speed gradually over the course of the event, and almost achieved his objective of finishing on the podium. His Suzuki Ignis was entirely reliable throughout the event, apart from a puncture five kilometres from the end of the final stage, which dropped him from third to fourth place.

"The Rally Finland has been a fantastic experience, but luck seems to have deserted me at the last minute again," he noted. "This was always going to be one of the most difficult and specialised events for me so I'm very happy to get to the end in fourth, but it could so easily have been third. The car has felt fantastic throughout the event, and I'm looking forward to the next rally in Britain now, which I have quite good experience of."

Katajamaki competing on home territory, was locked into a nail-biting battle for the lead with his team mate P-G Andersson over the closing four stages. P-G started the day with a slender lead, but Kosti grabbed the advantage on today's opening stage - only to see P-G take it back on the following test, when Kosti overshot a junction. The pair fought tooth and nail to the finish, but as in Turkey Kosti had to concede the victory to his team mate.

"Finland has always been one of my favourite rallies and it's been one of the most exciting days I can remember! It's been a fantastic fight with P-G and I think that nobody could guess who would win right up to the end," he commented. "I tried everything I could but in the end it was not quite enough. But still, I'm happy to be at the finish and on the podium."

Per-Gunnar Andersson - the Turkish Rally winner was locked into the thick of the battle with his team-mate, which raged until the very final stage. He grabbed the lead on the opening leg, but lost it with a puncture on leg two. Luckily for him, it occurred right at the end of a stage so he only dropped 17 seconds and was able to regain the lead at the end of the day. He lost it again on the opening stage of the final leg, where he felt he was driving too carefully. There were no such problems later on though...

"Finland is the sort of rally that every driver loves, and these fast gravel roads are my favourite type of surface. It's certainly been an interesting event, but the main thing is that our car has been reliable with no real problems throughout the rally," he said. "Now we can look forward to a good battle for the championship lead..."

Rally Finland is virtually a home event for Aava, and he put in a stunning performance after suffering from a few niggling problems on the opening leg. From then on, he found an excellent pace in order to consistently set some top-three times and complete Suzuki's domination of the leaderboard. On the final day, he missed the same junction as Kosti on SS20, and was locked in a tight battle with Renault driver Nicolas Bernardi for fourth place. The battle was decided in Bernardi's favour when Urmo dropped to fifth with a slow puncture on the final stage.

"This has been a good rally for us! I was a bit disappointed after the opening day, but from then on I was able to settle into a good rhythm and most importantly the car proved to be completely reliable," he commented. "It was important for me to try and keep Bernardi behind me in order to maximise our championship chances. I tried my best, but the puncture meant that there was no way it was going to happen."

Monster Sport Europe team manager Risto Laine concluded: "The Rally Finland was really the first event where we could see the pure speed of the Ignis compared to everybody else: there has always been a tactical element to the other rallies held so far. Under these demanding circumstances, the performance of the car has been faultless, and it's difficult to ask for more than the top two places! Well done to everybody - this is an extremely well-deserved result."

The Junior WRC now resumes in just over a month's time, on the Rally Great Britain from September 17-19. The event, won by Suzuki last year, is being held in autumn for the first time - which means that conditions should be notably different to how they were in the grip of winter. Britain's round of the World Championship will consequently be even faster: conditions that clearly suit the Ignis!