WRC

Gronholm in control in Rally Finland

Gronholm in control in Rally Finland

Marcus Gronholm looks to be poised to finally take the a victory for the new Peugeot 307 WRC at Rally Finland -- the first for the new car in the World Rally Championship. Marcus Gronholm and Timo Rautiainen. Photo by Marlboro Peugeot...

Marcus Gronholm looks to be poised to finally take the a victory for the new Peugeot 307 WRC at Rally Finland -- the first for the new car in the World Rally Championship.

Marcus Gronholm and Timo Rautiainen.
Photo by Marlboro Peugeot Total.
The Finn leads the rally by just over 35 seconds over Ford's Markko Martin after 18 special stages, after compatriots and Peugeot teammates Harri Rovanpera and Sebastian Lindholm fell by the wayside.

"I'm delighted to be leading," explaind Gronholm. "We started off with a feeling that was quite all right, but still not completely perfect. Then we had the gearbox problem that was a real worry, but we actually lost less time than I thought we would."

After winning five of the first day's ten stages, Gronholm settled for just two on the second day -- Petter Solberg, continuing under WRC's trial system, claimed five of the other six.

"The last stages were fine, but I could not relax for a minute," the Finnish veteran explained. "We have to keep pushing hard until the very end."

Petter Solberg and Phil Mills.
Photo by Subaru World Rally Team.
Solberg, who slid his Subaru off the road into a ditch and out of the rally on the first day, was back running today, although only to gain experience and without the possibility of a finish or WRC points.

"It's good fun to drive on these roads, you really can't beat the feeling," Solberg explained. "I'm not quite in top physical form, but it's always good to get more experience and play a bit with the set-up."

Lindholm will take the same option tomorrow to gain more experience with his 307. Running in second place in his first rally with the Peugeot 307, the six-time Finnish Rally Champion was sadly disappointed.

"We ran a little wide on a 90 degree right hand corner in Ouninpohja and the back wheel dropped into a ditch," Lindholm explained. "The back wheel hit a rock and that caused the car to roll. I'm very disappointed, as we were going hard, but not crazy."

Markko Martin and Michael Park.
Photo by Ford Motor Company.
Martin was not able to make up ground on Gronholm today, dropping some eight seconds to Gronholm in the first seven stages of the leg. He took the fastest time in the Killeri 2 superspecial at the end of the day, but it was mostly just for glory, as a 1.2-second gain on Gronholm did not make much of a dent in the Finn's lead.

"I've driven safely but not flat out," the Estonian explained. "There is a big gap between Marcus and myself and we'll need outside help if we are to win because there's no way I can catch him unless he hits trouble. We need to regain more than 30 seconds and the most we could probably achieve is a handful."

The rally finishes with two stages through each of Jukojarvi (22.3 km) and Kruununpera (25.3 km) on Sunday.

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Series WRC
Drivers Marcus Gronholm , Petter Solberg , Timo Rautiainen , Michael Park , Sebastian Lindholm , Markko Martin