WRC

Rally Finland: Peugeot leg one summary

Peugeot drivers second and third on red hot Rally Finland Peugeot's Marcus Gronholm has ended the first day of Rally Finland just 2.6 seconds behind leader Markko Martin, after one of the most exciting days of competition in recent history.

Peugeot drivers second and third on red hot Rally Finland

Peugeot's Marcus Gronholm has ended the first day of Rally Finland just 2.6 seconds behind leader Markko Martin, after one of the most exciting days of competition in recent history. Gronholm and the Ford driver have been neck-and-neck all day, and the scene is set for another epic battle tomorrow.

Peugeot driver Richard Burns completes the overnight podium, but the third factory 206 WRC of Harri Rovanpera is well down the order after losing several minutes on the first stage of the day.

Marcus has won in Finland for the past three years, but he said before the event that this rally could be the most closely-fought of the entire championship. He proved the point by winning four stages today. Richard also set a fastest stage time on SS7.

Today's route was typical of Finland, with flat-out crests and high speeds all day long. Conditions were complicated by the uncertain weather, which saw intermittent rain showers throughout the afternoon. Marcus had no mechanical problems at all during the day, but did not feel confident about his tyre choice on the middle loop of four consecutive stages. However, he enjoyed the close battle with Martin throughout the day, and is predicting an equally tight contest tomorrow.

"It's been a very exciting day and I've being pushing as hard as I can from the start," said Marcus. "I didn't feel confident with my tyre choice in the afternoon as I was forced to miss the pre-event tyre test when I hurt my elbow. That meant I was running on tyres I didn't really know for a lot of today. Apart from that, we had no real problems but I had a big scare when I hit a rock on stage eight. Luckily everything was OK, so now we can look forward to tomorrow."

Richard Burns also enjoyed a fault-free opening day. As World Championship leader he started the event first on the road, but he felt that the rain minimised this disadvantage. Both Richard and his Peugeot 206 WRC were on top form throughout the day, and he finishes the leg in close contact with the battle for the lead.

"Considering my road position, I'm very happy with the way today has gone," said Richard. "We're losing time when it's dry, but everything's a more level playing field when it's wet. I'm looking forward to tomorrow though: I think we can go very well on these roads

But Harri Rovanpera was not so lucky. He hit a rock on SS2 that broke a bolt in the suspension and sent him spinning into a tree. Using his well-known skills as a mechanic, Harri eventually managed to fix the suspension -- but he still dropped more than 20 minutes to the leaders.

"It's incredibly disappointing as I so wanted to do well on my home rally," said Harri. "The game is over now, but I still want to set some fast times and show what I can do. It was difficult to find some motivation earlier on, but now it's coming back."

Juuso Pykalisto, driving a 2003-specification Peugeot 206 WRC run by Bozian Racing ended the day within the top 10. Former World Champion Ari Vatanen, in a customer-specification 206 WRC, rounded off the top 20.

Tomorrow the drivers face seven more special stages including two runs through the classic Ouninpohja test -- which contains the biggest jumps in the World Championship. The first car leaves Parc Ferme at 0600 for 167 competitive kilometres of action, before returning to Jyvaskyla at 1948.

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Series WRC
Drivers Richard Burns , Harri Rovanpera , Marcus Gronholm , Juuso Pykalisto , Markko Martin