WRC

Gronholm wins home rally in Finland

Gronholm wins home rally in Finland

Marcus Gronholm gave the Peugeot 307 WRC its first victory today in his home country. Gronholm led each day in the fast and challenging Rally Finland to score his fourth career win at his home event. Marcus Gronholm and Timo ...

Marcus Gronholm gave the Peugeot 307 WRC its first victory today in his home country. Gronholm led each day in the fast and challenging Rally Finland to score his fourth career win at his home event.

Marcus Gronholm and Timo Rautiainen.
Photo by WRC McKlein.
The two-time World Rally Championship only had one relatively minor problem over the three-day event: fourth gear for three stages one Saturday.

"We've waited a long time for this!" Gronholm exclaimed. "This is certainly a victory that we've had to work for, but that makes it all the more worthwhile. I wasn't completely confident when we started the rally, but my feeling got better and we were able to keep the lead without pushing too hard."

Unfortunately both his teammates did not fare as well. Harri Rovanpera led in the early stages on day one before he slid off and had to retire. Sebastian Lindholm, at the wheel for the first time in the Peugeot 307, crashed while in second on day two. With both of Peugeot's other two Finns out, that left the only chance of victory on the shoulders of Gronholm.

"I'd like to thank everybody in the team for making it possible: this is a very special win," added Gronholm.

Markko Martin and Michael Park.
Photo by Ford Motor Company.
Ford Focus driver Markko Martin finished second as the still injured rallyist was recovering from the accident in Argentina. Martin and Gronholm are now tied for third in the drivers' standings.

"This has been a really hard weekend," Martin said. "My body wasn't able to keep up with what my head was telling me to do. I really didn't expect it to be so difficult to drive but we've finished second and scored eight points so that is a good result. But I'm really happy it's over."

Citroen's Sebastien Loeb and Carlos Sainz both made it to the finish, with Sainz taking third place, 1:44 behind Gronholm, and Loeb another 30 seconds back.

Carlos Sainz and Marc Marti.
Photo by Citro?n Sport.
"To finish on the podium after such a challenging rally, both physically and in terms of concentration, is a good result," Sainz reflected at the end of the event. "Above and beyond the numbers, the thing that gives value to our final positions is the way the team worked together to find solutions (and improve the car during the rally) to allow us to fight."

Subaru pilots Petter Solberg and Mikko Hirvonen both retired from the rally, but restarted under the current experimental rules. While Solberg was not classified and will not score points, he did score fastest times on nine of the rally's special stages.

"Petter paid a heavy price for his small mistake on Friday and I can't help but feel that, if he hadn't been ill, it would have been a completely different story," mused team principal David Lapworth. "Similarly, Mikko has shown the pace that we were hoping for, although his weekend was ruined too by one small mistake."

Gronholm is now back in the championship fight, tied for third with Martin with 42 points, and only two points behind second-placed Solberg. Loeb, though, has a substantial lead at 66 points.

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Series WRC
Drivers Carlos Sainz , Harri Rovanpera , Marcus Gronholm , Petter Solberg , Sébastien Loeb , Timo Rautiainen , Michael Park , Mikko Hirvonen , Marc Marti , Sebastian Lindholm , Markko Martin
Teams Citroën World Rally Team