Gronholm and Eriksson pilot Olsbergs MSE Ford Fiesta through opening Pikes Peak practice

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (July 15, 2009) -- The driving duo of Marcus Gronholm and Andreas Eriksson have a wealth of rally experience and numerous championships between them, but their first encounter with Pikes Peak in the 2009 Olsbergs MSE Ford Fiesta left them feeling like the rookies on legendary mountain course. An up and down morning practice session left the duo hungry for a second shot at the 12.4-mile course, but realistic that success at Pikes Peak is something that is not easily obtained.

"We had a few problems this morning, but the car is really nice to drive," said two-time WRC champion Marcus Gronholm. "The handling is perfect, but because of the altitude we were struggling through the hairpins and there wasn't so much power, but when it [power] was coming it was ok. We need to work with our engineer on mapping and things like that. We need a little bit of experience for this race to be competitive and we know that it will be difficult on Sunday."

"It was exciting morning for us," said Andreas Eriksson, four time Swedish Rally champion. "We have been on the mountain a couple of days since we arrived and it is a really beautiful view up there, but in the race car you only see the corners. I guess the tourist session is over. This is a hard race because of the altitude and that caused us problems this morning, but we will solve them. That's why we come with two cars because you have a double chance to get it right. I had a little problem with the gearbox and some other small stuff, but Marcus' car is getting better and better so we will work on it all day and all night in order to get it better for tomorrow. I am really looking forward to running the gravel part in the high altitude tomorrow. I have been warned that it is even worse than this day so Friday night could be good. Everything we are trying to do we are trying to be the best that we can and I think we will be competitive on Sunday. It is a long way and it is a hard mountain to climb."

The 800 horsepower Fiestas will return to the track on Thursday morning at 5:30 a.m. local time for the second of three practice sessions. On Thursday morning the duo will tackle the top third of the course.

The 87th annual Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is Sunday starting at 9:00 a.m. local time. Dubbed 'The Race to the Clouds," the Pikes Peak Hill Climb is the second oldest race in North America.

-credit: ford racing