Marcus GrÃ¶nholm and Timo Rautiainen scored Ford's 50th world rally victory today when they won the Swedish Rally in a Ford Focus RS World Rally Car. The Finns led from start to finish on this second round of the FIA World Rally Championship to ...
Marcus Grönholm and Timo Rautiainen scored Ford's 50th world rally victory today when they won the Swedish Rally in a Ford Focus RS World Rally Car. The Finns led from start to finish on this second round of the FIA World Rally Championship to provide the perfect birthday present for Grönholm who is 38 today. Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) won the first three stages but had no answer to Grönholm on the second loop. Daniel Carlsson and Gigi Galli (both Mitsubishi) continued their thrilling fight for the final podium place.
They swapped places four times in six stages and were rarely more than a second apart. They entered the final test split by just 0.2sec but Carlsson pulled clear to beat the Italian by 7.0sec. Janne Tuohino (Citroen) was on course for fifth but stopped less than 1km from the finish of the last stage allowing Thomas Rådström to move up. Other major retirements included Mattias Ekström (Skoda), who crashed out of fifth on the opening stage, and team-mate Andreas Aigner who retired with engine problems. Petter Solberg's (Subaru) troubles continued when he dropped more than eight minutes on the penultimate stage after stalling at the start. A faulty starter motor delayed his restart. He finished but was excluded for not clearing the start control in time.
Kronos Total Citroen
If speed-skating in a World Rally Car were an Olympic sport, Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena would have been deserving recipients of a silver medal. And thanks to an excellent seventh place from Xevi Pons and Carlos Del Barrio, the Kronos Citroen World Rally Team would have taken a gold medal, for scoring more constructors' points in Sweden than any other team.
Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena: "Right up to the start of the last stage we tried everything: absolutely everything! Today Marcus [Grönholm] was quicker than us. This morning, when Marcus's car had a problem and we closed to within 15 seconds, we tried a daring tyre choice. We've got no regrets about the outcome. Another second place, with eight drivers' and constructors' points, is a good start to a season which is going to be fascinating. All the signs are there for a good fight!"
Xavier Pons/Carlos Del Barrio: "On my fourth Swedish Rally - but the first in a WRC car - I learnt.that I still have a lot to learn about Sweden ! I achieved the goal that the team set for me : to finish the rally and bring back as many constructors points as possible. I'm very happy not to have made mistakes and I'm also pleased that I have been able to see my progress on many of the stages. On top of that, I scored two drivers' points. All in all, I'll have some very good memories of this event !"
All's well that ends well - that is how the drivers of the OMV Peugeot Norway World Rally Team view their Swedish assignment. Despite rollovers on leg two both OMV drivers saw the finish in Karlstad. Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud reached eighth place overall and win WRC points in both driver's and manufacturer's championships. Thanks to the perfect work of Bozian Racing Manfred Stohl/Ilka Minor were able to complete the third leg and finish in 18th place.
Manfred Stohl/Ilka Minor: "I've learned a lot. It was important to see that we can keep up with the best here in Sweden, too. The restart was psychologically important - each completed race kilometre is a lot of help. My thanks go to Bozian Racing. They did a perfect job."
Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud: "The weekend was a tough affair but I'm happy that everything turned out fine in the end. This result consolidates our third place in the manufacturer's championship."
Marcus Grönholm and Timo Rautiainen scored Ford's 50th world rally victory today when they won the Swedish Rally in a Ford Focus RS World Rally Car. The Finns led from start to finish on this second round of the FIA World Rally Championship to provide the perfect birthday present for Grönholm who is 38 today. It was the second consecutive victory for Grönholm and Rautiainen, who claimed a debut win with the BP-Ford World Rally Team in the same Focus RS on the Rallye Monte Carlo two weeks ago. It was his fourth Swedish victory and he leads the drivers' championship by four points. BP-Ford team-mates Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen recovered from Friday's overheating problems to finish 12th to help Ford maintain its lead in the manufacturers' championship.
Marcus Grönholm/Timo Rautiainen: "This is another fantastic result. After my first test in the Focus RS here before Christmas, I thought I could take a good result in the rally but to win is just amazing. To win both my first two rallies in the car is a dream and it's good for the future. My birthday isn't so important now. The big thing for me is that the Focus has proved so competitive all weekend. BFGoodrich provided me with great tyres and I set some superb stage times. I just hope that the car will be as competitive on gravel because it would be great to continue this winning run on the next round."
Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen: "To score points is a good way to end because on Friday evening that didn't look possible. I'm happy with my speed and if it hadn't been for Friday's trouble then I'm sure I could have taken a podium. Conditions were perfect and the Focus was great to drive on the snow and ice. It was nice to be first on the road today because I could pick my own driving line on the flowing roads."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford
The World Rally Championship's youngest official driver Matthew Wilson brought his Ford Focus RS WRC 05 back to Karlstad to an untroubled 13th position in Sweden this evening. The 19-year-old admitted the second round of the series had been every bit as tough as the Monte Carlo Rally, where he made his debut for the Stobart VK M-Sport team a fortnight ago. This is Matthew's first attempt at the highly-specialised Swedish Rally, but the perfect conditions made his job slightly less complicated on today's third and final leg. Temperatures in the central Sweden area, where the rally is running, remained firmly below zero, but the roads had been covered with a dusting of overnight snow. Snow flurries continued throughout the day.
Matthew Wilson/Michael Orr: "I stalled at the start of the first stage this morning. I dropped 15 seconds before I could get going again. I had to power cycle the car, which means if the car doesn't fire up straight away, you have to turn off the electrical master switch and basically reboot the system. It's kind of the same thing you would do with a computer at home. Once the car was running again, that stage was good. I felt confident with the car and then everything was flowing. On the middle one of the loop this morning, I don't know what happened. That Rammen stage is a bit of a classic. It's really fast and flowing at the start, then twisty in the middle and then fast to the finish. It's the kind of stage you need to feel comfortable on very quickly. There are lots of long corners over crests, where you need full commitment to the notes and I didn't get that. The third stage was good again, no problems at all in there. This afternoon has gone to plan nicely for us. We didn't want to take any risks or anything like that. The roads had a few ruts on them on the second run through, so it would have been easy to go off. I was a little happier in the Ramman stage on the second run through, I was faster, but I've still got a bit to learn about that particular stage. On the whole though, I'm happy with what I've achieved here - and better still we have scored some manufacturer points."
Kosti Katajamaki/Timo Alanne: "I have been determined to push harder today, I wanted to show that I could set good time in the Focus. The car has run without any problems and the roads have been fantastic. Okay, there's been a little bit of fresh snow on the surface and running higher up the order meant we had to deal with a little bit more of that, but otherwise it's great. I pushed this morning and we were in the top ten times, but then this afternoon you start to see the finish is coming and I really wanted to get there."
After problems earlier in the event, the team's focus for Leg three of Rally Sweden was on testing and learning for the future. Chris Atkinson worked on evaluating new set-ups for the Impreza WRC2006 and ended the rally 11th to score 3 manufacturers' points. Petter Solberg had a good start to the Leg with a third fastest time in one of the morning's stages, but his car stalled at the start line of SS18 and a starter motor problem prevented them from getting underway within the regulation 20 second period. Solberg finished the rally but was later excluded from the final results.
Petter Solberg/Phil Mills: "I just don't know what to say. I'm trying to remain positive about things but it's certainly been a weekend to forget. Clearly we've got a lot of work to do now to get things back to normal. I want to thank everyone who supported us this weekend, there were so many Norwegian flags by the side of the road and I'm sorry we weren't able to get a better result."
Chris Atkinson/Glen MacNeall: "We're pretty happy today. We took some steps forward with the set up and learned a bit more. The pace was a bit better and I think we're learning things for the future. Sweden's a good fun rally, but it hasn't been good for our team at all. I'm looking forward to our test for Mexico in a couple of week's time. I'm hoping for a better result there."
Red Bull-Skoda Team
After two successful days of the Swedish Rally near Hagfors the final day of the event did not go according to plan for Red Bull Skoda.
Mattias Ekstrom/Stefan Bergman: "After four kilometres the car just got away from me and we touched a snow bank, crushing the front of the Fabia including the radiator, so we were unable to continue like that. Too bad, we were on course to secure points in the drivers' and the manufacturers' championships"
Andreas Aigner/Timo Gottschalk: . "Of course I am bitterly disappointed. Just four stages to go, and despite the misfire the car worked rather well, I felt very comfortable. Nevertheless one has to look on the bright side of things, I gained a lot of experience in Sweden and now I hope for another good result at my next WRC event in Spain."
After the frozen forests and snow-covered barren landscape of central Sweden, the FIA World Rally Championship heads to warm, sunny Mexico. Part of the calendar since 2004, the event has become well-liked thanks to the high-speed, picturesque gravel roads and beautiful scenery. Crews climb into the mountains around host city Leon to some of the highest stages in the championship where both car and driver are tested to the max.