WRC

Rally Finland: Final summary

Marcus Gronholm (Peugeot), who moved ahead midway through the opening leg, claimed his first victory since Argentina more than a year ago. Despite a noisy gearbox, for which the team had no replacement as the other broke yesterday, the Finn...

Marcus Gronholm (Peugeot), who moved ahead midway through the opening leg, claimed his first victory since Argentina more than a year ago. Despite a noisy gearbox, for which the team had no replacement as the other broke yesterday, the Finn finished 34.7sec ahead of Martin. Team-mates Carlos Sainz and Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) were untroubled as they maintained third and fourth. Jani Paasonen (Skoda) completed a superb debut for the Czech team to finish sixth while team-mate Toni Gardemeister collected the final drivers' point. Eleventh was sufficient for Gilles Panizzi (Mitsubishi) to claim the final manufacturer points. There were no major retirements today.

41 of the original 68 competitors left Jyvaskyla parc ferme at 0700hrs this morning. Five of those were restarting under the FIA re-entry system.

The third and final Leg comprised 95.26 competitive kilometres and four stages (a loop of two repeated). Stages were run to the west of the host town of Jyvaskyla

Following overnight rain, conditions were dry and warm with temperatures peaking at 29C. Stages were smooth gravel

Peugeot

Peugeot driver Marcus Gronholm has won the Rally Finland, the first-ever victory for the 307 WRC and the fourth career win for Marcus on his home event. Conditions were once more dry and hot over the rapid stages and rollercoaster crests that make Finland the most spectacular rally of the year. Marcus took the lead on the opening day, underlining Peugeot's dominance. In total, the 307 WRC set 15 fastest stage times and headed the field from the very first stage. Marcus's Peugeot was reliable throughout the event, apart from a gearbox problem on the second leg that meant he lost fourth gear for three stages during the afternoon. Despite this, the two-time World Champion kept his opposition at bay to maintain his advantage until the end.

Marcus Gronholm / Timo Rautiainen: We've waited a long time for this!" said Marcus at the finish. "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. The gearbox problem on the second day really worried me, as it meant that our top speed was limited to 160kph. But we lost less time than I thought we would, and so the final day was a question of driving safely but quickly to the end. I'd like to thank everybody in the team for making it possible: this is a very special win."

Harri Rovanpera / Risto Pietilainen: Retired
Sebastian Lindholm : Retired

Citroen

Citroen has maintained its double lead in the world Championship, with Carlos Sainz' 92nd career podium finish moving him into the top four in the drivers' championship, while Sebastien Loeb's fourth place places him 22 points ahead of second place rival, Subaru's Petter Solberg who failed to finish the event.

Sebastien Loeb / Daniel Elena: Tired but happy, Sebastien Loeb was pleased with the way the events turned out. "A good result for the team, very good for us. We now have a margin equal to two victories over Petter Solberg. When you think how close last year's championship was, you can only be happy. However, we will not relax. The forthcoming asphalt event was good for us in the last two years. We have to do everything to make sure it is the same this year too."

Carlos Sainz / Marc Marti: "To finish on the podium after such a challenging rally, both physically and in terms of concentration, is a good result," Carlos Sainz commented. "Above and beyond the numbers, the thing that gives value to our final positions is the way the team worked together to find solutions to allow us to fight."

Subaru

Subaru's Petter Solberg and Mikko Hirvonen re-started today's third and final day of Rally Finland after their retirements earlier in the event. Although ineligible to score Championship points, they used the opportunity to demonstrate the winning pace of the Impreza WRC2004, increase their experience of the specialist gravel stages and carry out some useful test work. Petter was fastest through three of the day's four stages while Mikko was quickest on one.

Petter Solberg / Phil Mills: "There's not really much more to say about this event. I've enjoyed my driving today. Physically, I feel so much better, it's just too bad it didn't happen a little earlier."

Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen: "It's a shame about the mistake on Friday although I'm really happy with the pace I've set since then. It's always fun to drive these stages, they're an excellent challenge and being in my home country makes them even more special. They're stupidly fast from time to time, but it's difficult to describe the excellent feeling you get when you're driving. Next up is Germany and that's going to be my first proper tarmac rally with this car. But, no worries, the preparations have gone well and I can't wait to get there."

Ford

BP-Ford World Rally Team topped the points scoring on the Rally Finland today as three Focus RS World Rally Cars finished in the top seven of this ninth round of the FIA World Rally Championship. Markko Martin and Michael Park bounced back from last month's massive accident in Argentina to finish second while Janne Tuohino and Jukka Aho claimed fifth, ensuring Ford ended this fastest round of the championship as the leading points scorers. Team-mates Francois Duval and Stephane Prevot finished seventh to ensure a treble points haul in the drivers' series for the team. Ford remains second in the world championship standings with seven of the 16 rounds remaining while Martin and Duval consolidated third and sixth places respectively in the drivers' table.

Markko Martin / Michael Park: Martin, still suffering the after-effects of his 170kph south American crash, drove a superb error-free rally. After regaining his confidence and rhythm on the opening day, the 28-year-old Estonian proved too good for all his rivals except winner Marcus Gronholm, despite driving at less than normal pace. He was roared on throughout by an estimated 10,000 fellow countrymen who made the short trip across the Baltic Sea. "This has been a really hard weekend," he 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. If I had been 100 per cent fit then I would have been able to challenge Marcus. There has been good teamwork throughout, with a reliable car and some good tyre choices. The championship is still alive and we must now turn our attentions to a good result in Germany on the next round."

Janne Touhino / Aho : Finns Tuohino and Aho were drafted into the squad to add local knowledge and experience and the decision paid off. Twenty-nine-year-old Tuohino, competing for the Ford team for only the second time, set a fierce pace on the opening day during which he was third for much of the time. He was unable to match that speed on the second and third legs but achieved his goal of scoring a points finish. This was his fifth points result from five events this season. "In one sense I'm a little disappointed because I thought I could finish in the top three here," he said. "But in the other I'm pleased to have scored points for Ford, which was the reason I was in the team. I've enjoyed the weekend but I just wish I could have reproduced Friday's pace for the other two days."

Francios Duval / Stefan Prevot: Duval and Prevot, whose experience of this rally is limited, were freed from the pressure of having to score points in order to gain more knowledge of the Finnish terrain. Twenty-three-year-old Duval adopted a cautious approach throughout and looked on course to claim seventh until a broken exhaust manifold on the second day cost more than two minutes. However, the Belgian battled hard through the final leg to regain lost ground and ensure his first finish in Finland in four attempts. "It's been a long and tough weekend and I think this is the most difficult rally in the championship," said Duval. "But I've made big improvements with my pace notes and I felt confident enough to attack today to regain seventh. I found a good speed and rhythm all weekend. Next year I want fifth here and I want to win this rally within five years."

Mitsubishi

The Mitsubishi Lancer WRC04 crew of Gilles and Herve Panizzi scored manufacturer points for Mitsubishi in Rally Finland, the ninth round of the FIA World Rally Championship. The French crew arrived at the finish in 11th position, sixth of the nominated crews. Team-mates Kristian Sohlberg and Kaj Lindstrom may have retired during the second leg, however the Finns demonstrated the Lancer WRC04s potential as they traded split times with the leading crews in one of the fastest and most spectacular events of the 16-round series.

Gilles Panizzi / Herve Panizzi: Gilles and Herve Panizzi maintained their 11th position throughout the leg, the French pair focused on trying different set-ups as they and the team continue to learn more about the Lancer WRC04. "We have run different shock absorber settings today and tried various things, purely to understand what happens under different conditions", commented Gilles. "Overall I am happy after this rally, especially as I made no mistakes. The team has worked very well and I am pleased for the engineers. The reliability has been good, we've all learned more and we have the car at the finish in the points".

Kristian Sohlberg / Kaj Lindstrom: "This is the first rally that neither car has had major problems, demonstrating that just over half-way through the season we are slowly getting the reliability", commented Sven Quandt, Head of Mitsubishi Motorsport. "Kristian performed very well and even though he was forced out, he showed the car is capable of being fast. It will now be interesting to see what happens in Germany, our first full Tarmac round".

Skoda

Rally Finland saw the ©koda Motorsport Team achieve the best ever result with the Fabia WRC at this level with three cars at the finish. Jani Paasonen, Toni Gardemeister and Armin Schwarz finished the 382.71kms of high-speed gravel stages in positions 6, 8 and 12 respectively. Jani scored his best ever WRC result and, in doing so, was named Inmarsat Star of the Rally. The judging panel, led by former co-driver Nicky Grist, said: "Jani has shown a strong and competitive performance at his home rally. He is hungry for a factory drive and has demonstrated this with an excellent drive over the weekend." ©koda Motorsport's programme for 2004 takes the team on to Rallye Deutschland (August 20-22) where Armin and Toni will be joined by Czech driver Roman Kresta for the first anniversary of the debut for the Fabia WRC.

Toni Gardemeister / Paavo Lukander: "I am disappointed that the problem I had on Friday cost me the chance to be closer to the leaders. From the car's performance before my problem and after it was fixed I think we might have even had the chance for a better result than this."

Armin Schwarz / Manfred Hiemer: "Everyone has worked hard over the last few months to get the car to a level where we can fight for results like this. It is a really good result for the team and I am now really looking forward to my home event in two weeks."

Jani Paasonen / Jani Vainikka: "It really is an honour to be named the Inmarsat Star of the Rally. It has been a very tough event, but it is fantastic to be recognised for my performance against the best in the world. Having only had a day and half's testing in this car, this result is great for me. They presented the award with two stages still to go so I had to wait a bit longer before I could open it!"

Next round
Round ten of the sixteen-round 2004 FIA World Rally Championship starts in two weeks time, when teams travel to Germany for the WRC Rally Deutschland. An all-asphalt event, the Rally includes a variety of stages including narrow, twisty vineyard roads in the Mosel Valley, rough, bumpy tarmac roads in the Baumholder military training area and smooth, fast roads in Saarland. Starting from the city of Trier on Friday 20 August, the event includes 24 stages. The winning car is expected to cross the finish ramp at 1530hrs on Sunday 22 August.

-fia/wrc-

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Series WRC
Teams Citroën World Rally Team