PEUGEOT: A STRONG LINE-UP FOR FINLAND Currently second in the Manufacturers' championship standings, Peugeot Sport is looking to return to its winning ways in order to keep its chances alive of conquering another world title. The tenth round of...
PEUGEOT: A STRONG LINE-UP FOR FINLAND
Currently second in the Manufacturers' championship standings, Peugeot Sport is looking to return to its winning ways in order to keep its chances alive of conquering another world title. The tenth round of the 2005 calendar, Rally Finland, stands out as a first class opportunity to achieve that objective. The Peugeot 307 WRC will be driven by Marcus Grönholm, winner of this event four times in the past five years. The only year the Finn failed to win, it was his new Estonian team-mate Markko Märtin who took the honours. The 307 WRC, which won last year in Finland, will clearly be in good hands, especially since a third car has been entered for local star Sebastian Lindholm.
For its final WRC campaign, Peugeot Sport has set itself the target of wining the Manufacturers' crown for the sixth time following its previous successes in 1985 and 1986 with the Peugeot 205 Turbo 16, and in 2000, 2001 and 2002 with the Peugeot 206 WRC. Nine rounds into the 2005 season, the French outfit figures in second place in the provisional standings - six points behind Citroën - and has profited from the strength of the team and the reliability of the 307 WRC to finish regularly in the points with both cars. Marcus Grönholm has been in particularly combative form and has finished on the podium five times, including three 2nd places. For his first year at the wheel of the 307 WRC, Markko Märtin has driven very consistently and finished every one of the nine rounds contested to date in the points. The team's ambition is to improve on these results even further and, in this respect, the recent performances of Marcus Grönholm are especially encouraging. In Argentina, the two-times World Champion finished 2nd, less than half a minute behind the winner, and kept up the pressure on the leader all the way to the finish. The car/tyre package was incontestably quicker in South America than it had been previously in the Mediterranean-rim rounds.
"Marcus had an excellent run. He didn't have any mechanical problems and posted six fastest times which were a great boost for the motivation of everyone in the team," said Jean-Pierre Nicolas after the finish in Argentina. "Rally Finland will be a fresh chance to close the gap that separates us from top spot in the provisional championship standings because the stages should suit our drivers perfectly," added the Peugeot Sport boss.
Rally Finland holds a special place in Peugeot's competition history. The French manufacturer scored some excellent results there in the days of the Group B 205 Turbo 16 when Ari Vatanen, Timo Salonen and Juha Kankkunen took consecutive wins with the car in 1984, 1985 and 1986. More recently, the 206 WRC went one better by winning four times in five years (2000, 2001, 2002 and 2004) with a single driver, Marcus Grönholm.
Rally Finland is one of the most spectacular, fastest and most challenging fixtures of the year and features countless blind jumps that call for impeccable handling from the cars, plus extreme precision and bravery from the drivers.
Competing on home ground, Marcus Grönholm stands out once again as one of the leading favourites and, like all Finns, he will be particularly fired up on home soil. In the interview that accompanies this communiqué, he talks in detail about his chances.
The locals have historically been so tough to beat on their own event that it was only in 1990 that a non-Nordic driver - Carlos Sainz - succeeded in beating them to the highest step of the podium for the very first time. Two other drivers have repeated the same exploit since: Didier Auriol (in 1992) and Markko Märtin (2003), and the latter counts on giving it everything he's got this time round again. "This rally is unique," says the Estonian. "I like it a lot. Given that my country is so close and that it doesn't organise a round of the World Championship, it's almost as though this was my home round. I really hope to score a top result. I have always been quick in Finland, and I know the 307 WRC - which won here last year - will be very competitive."
A third 307 WRC has been entered for Peugeot's official test driver and reigning Finish Champion, Sebastian Lindholm. Sebastian figured in a brilliant 2nd place in Rally Finland last year with the 307 WRC until his retirement following an off on Stage 12. This year, he kicked off his season with a win in the Waltikka Rally, a round of his national championship. "I'm not doing the full calendar this year however, and Rally Finland could well be my only other outing this season," he points out. "My objective will be to finish inside the top eight and I will be particularly pleased if Marcus wins and enables Peugeot to score maximum championship points."