The Suzuki World Rally Team will be especially determined to do well on the Rally Japan next week as it will mark the very first time the SX4 WRC car has competed on home territory.

Following the two back-to-back asphalt events in Spain and Corsica earlier this month, the World Rally Championship now returns to gravel - the favoured surface for Suzuki's all-Scandinavian driver line-up of Toni Gardemeister and Per-Gunnar Andersson.

The Paris-based outfit has learnt a lot in recent months and a lot of work has been done on the differential to make the SX4 WRC more reactive.

The team has also had the chance to test a wide range of spring and damper settings and while the emphasis will remain on reliability, they will also be looking to show some speed.

The fact the event has a new base this season and will feature completely new stages should also assist them, according to Suzuki World Rally team director, Shusuke Inagaki.

"Japan will be a very big challenge for us as all the stages are new this year. However, we hope that this fact will benefit us, because it means that nobody will start the rally with a particular advantage in terms of experience," he explained.

"Our recent performances have underlined the encouraging reliability of the SX4 WRC, so we hope to use this to good effect on our home territory.

"The entire team has been working very hard to make solid progress, step by step, and we aim to see more improvement on Rally Japan."

Gardemeister and Andersson meanwhile both go into the event with very little experience, as they have only competed in the 'Land of the Rising Sun' once before and that was way back in 2005.

However, with this year's event having moved to Sapporo, that shouldn't be a big issue - although Gardemeister remains cautious.

"Japan is a really difficult rally as it is so easy to make a mistake: a fact that many drivers have found out the hard way! I don't really know what it will be like this year," said the Finn. "The key to doing well in Japan is to be very neat and precise, and try to never get off the line.

"I quite like it, because in some ways this makes it a bit similar to Rally Finland. One big difference though is that the roads are a lot narrower and the grip is much more inconsistent - or at least this was the case when I did Rally Japan in the past."

P-G in contrast is a lot more upbeat and he wants to try and get some points: "I'm really pleased to get back to gravel," he added. "It's my favourite surface and I think we can do well in Japan. We've done a lot of work on the SX4 WRC since the start of the year and now I think it is really starting to pay off.

"The stages in Japan require proper commitment from the driver, particularly under braking, so I think that they should suit us well. After Corsica my confidence is back now, so my target will be to do my very best and try to finish in the points for Suzuki at home."

 

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