Peugeot Aiming For Another Success in Snowy Sweden After finishing with both its cars in the points in Monte Carlo, Peugeot Sport travels to the season's second round in Sweden where it will be looking to add a further win to the four Swedish ...
Peugeot Aiming For Another Success in Snowy Sweden
After finishing with both its cars in the points in Monte Carlo, Peugeot Sport travels to the season's second round in Sweden where it will be looking to add a further win to the four Swedish Rally successes it has secured since 2000. The team's colours will be represented by Marcus Gronholm and Markko Martin, while a third 307 WRC has been entered for local youngster Daniel Carlsson.
The objective announced by Peugeot at the start of the season was perfectly clear: after securing three Manufacturers' titles in 2000, 2001 and 2002, plus Drivers' championship wins with Marcus Gronholm in 2000 and 2002, the Velizy-based operation wants to claim another WRC crown before moving on to other activities from 2006. The level of the competition and the fiercely disputed nature of the championship were confirmed by the way the opening round in Monte Carlo unfolded. The Peugeot 307 WRC has never won in the Principality but it has always been strong in the French Alps. This time round, before being caught out by snow thrown onto the road by spectators on the final day, Marcus Gronholm figured in 2nd place thanks to some excellent stage times. Despite the incident, the Finn finished 5th, just behind his new team-mate at Peugeot, Markko Martin (4th), who was making his debut with the French squad. This close-formation finish underlined the car's reliability which is particularly encouraging for the fixtures to come.
The 'Swedish' generally features fewer unknowns than the Monte Carlo Rally which is unpredictable by definition and where the team was essentially looking to find its marks after the changes brought in since 2004. Meanwhile, except when the weather proves excessively mild, the Swedish Rally is the calendar's only 100% winter round and traditionally takes place over snow-covered lanes that the drivers have come to know very well. And every one of them will be intent on being the fastest of the pack over the event's challenging stages.
It only takes a glance at Marcus Gronholm's record to see that this is an event the Finn enjoys. It was in Sweden -- with Peugeot, in 2000 -- that he claimed the first win of his WRC career. He finished on top again in 2002 and 2003 and was 2nd in 2004. Only once has he failed to reach the finish with the team in Karlstad, and that was in 2001 when victory went instead to his team-mate Harri Rovanpera.
"I think my first win in Sweden was the finest of my career. It was my maiden win of course, but it was also extremely important vis-à-vis the team. I will never forget the celebrations at the end of the final stage where Corrado Provera was waiting for me. It was very moving. Then it was on to the final service halt where we were greeted by the whole team. That was a memorable moment too. I also love the Swedish Rally because it's fun to drive. I hope this year's event goes well for me. I think I have a very good chance. I came 2nd last year on what was only the 307 WRC's second outing after dropping a minute early on. Since then, the car has progressed and our testing in Sweden in December went particularly well."
Markko Martin's best result to date in Sweden is 4th overall (2003). The Estonian's record also includes an outright win in Finland (2003) which speaks volumes for his speed on the championship's fastest events. "Along with Finland and New Zealand, the Swedish is one of my three favourite events," he confirms. "I momentarily led the rally in 2004 and this year will be my first experience with the 307 WRC off asphalt (Markko was speaking before his scheduled test in the Varmland a week before the start). The car is intrinsically very competitive and Marcus proved that with some top stage times in Sweden last season. That's very encouraging and I will certainly give it my absolute best."
A third 307 WRC has been entered for Daniel Carlsson who will be eager to fly the Peugeot flag as high as possible on his home event.