Markko Martin edged out his competitors each day to score his second World Rally Championship victory of the season. The Ford factory driver led each day in the Rally Finland and kept his focus during the final leg, per his own words at the end of...
Markko Martin edged out his competitors each day to score his second World Rally Championship victory of the season. The Ford factory driver led each day in the Rally Finland and kept his focus during the final leg, per his own words at the end of the second day, "If we can avoid problems and keep the car on the road I think we'll be OK tomorrow. I will drive at 100 per cent or just under."
As Martin said, "we were both having such fun." Gronholm retired, losing the chance for a fourth straight win in Rally Finland, when a front wheel came off on SS15.
"I've dreamed of winning here ever since I was a young boy," a very happy Martin said. "This is the Grand Prix of the rally world and it's so special to be successful here because so few non-Finns have won this rally."
Once Gronholm retired, Richard Burns took up the challenge of breathing down the exhaust of the Ford Focus, until he, too, experienced problems on the second day. A failed wheel bearing cost Burns nearly a minute, and opened the door to allow Martin to extend his lead.
The battle for the final two podium spots heated up during each successive stage, bouncing from Burns to Petter Solberg. After Martin had won the first stage of the day, Burns and Solberg took the rest of leg three's six stages.
Solberg took the penultimate stage after Burns had earlier taken three in a row. The margin between the two entering the final stage 23 - Mokkipera 2, a 13.96km run for second was only one and eight-tenths seconds.
Burns answered the challenge in his Peugeot by posting the top time for stage 19, Mokkipera 1. The British driver only took the first finish order by three-tenths of a second over Solberg who was just two-tenths faster than Martin. Solberg kept second overall but only by the four-tenths of one second, keeping the tight battle for the position. Carlos Sainz gap from third to fourth had increased.
Burns was hungry as he demonstrated on the 20th stage (Palsankyla) with the win, however, Solberg was staying in touch with second on the stage. Martin was taking it somewhat easier keeping the Ford in the top three stage standings whilst holding his overall lead.
Solberg was edged out by Martin for second on the Kuohu stage 21 as Burns took his third consecutive stage win. With Martin in second by the merest of margins on the stage, Solberg lost ground to Burns for the second position in the overall standings, now a 3.1 second gap.
The penultimate stage went to Solberg's Subaru. Burns needed to put his Peugeot in first on the final stage by enough time to take the second podium step. Solberg tasted the spot and won the final stage by three seconds, taking second position overall by a margin of one and two-tenths seconds.
Tired but relieved to leave today with added points, Burns stated, "It's been a good rally, and I was driving like crazy, but I didn't want to take too many risks today. To come away with six points and still leading the championship is superb."
Citroen's Carlos Sainz finished fourth followed by teammate, Sebastien Loeb in fifth. Finland's Tommi Makkinen brought his Subaru home in sixth overall.
The Championship standings with five rallies left this season has Sainz now within five points of the leader, Burns who leaves today with 49 ponts. Current champion Gronholm is in third tied with Solberg at 38 followed by Loeb and Martin, now in contention, at 37 each.
The manufacturers' points still show Peugeot on top at 101 to Citroen's 97 with Ford now in third in a virtual tie with Subaru at 60 points each.