Peugeot team cars charged to the front in day one of the Rally Finland. Overall leader Marcus Gronholm won half of the special ten stages today to take the lead by just 18.3-seconds over Sebastian Lindholm in this weekend's World Rally...
Peugeot team cars charged to the front in day one of the Rally Finland. Overall leader Marcus Gronholm won half of the special ten stages today to take the lead by just 18.3-seconds over Sebastian Lindholm in this weekend's World Rally Championship round.
"Today seemed to get better and better," said Gronholm after getting off to a rough start. "Of course it is still a big battle with Sebastian so I cannot relax at all, and there are many areas where we can still improve. But the main thing is to be in the lead and fighting for victory. I'm very happy for the team: our first and second places underline just how hard everyone has been working."
Gronholm has won the Rally Finland three times and knows how to pace himself and his Peugeot WRC 307 over the very challenging and fast route. However, Lindholm proved his own ability today in his Peugeot WRC 307 debut.
"It's been a perfect start to the rally, and I have to say that I even surprised myself! I was quite confident before the start, but I didn't expect to be this close to the lead straight away. It's good fun to be challenging Marcus, and the car is the best I have ever driven," commented the local Finn.
The third Finnish driver on the team had bad luck after setting a fast pace and leading overall at the end of the sixth special. Harri Rovanpera slid off and damaged the rear of his Peugeot; he retired.
"I'm bitterly disappointed," explained Rovanpera. "This was my rally and everything seemed to be going so well. It was a very stupid thing: a bit too far to the right over the corner and the car went off the road. I had a very good feeling, and I know what might have been possible."
Ford's Markko Martin is only 28.4-seconds adrift of the leader Gronholm and 10.1-seconds out of second overall. The Estonian and his co-driver Michael Park are still recovering from their horrific accident during the Argentina rally.
"I'm really surprised to be on the podium because today has been the toughest of my career," reflected Martin. "I'm still recovering after the accident and don't feel 100 per cent. Because of that, I didn't feel confident in driving flat out but this is the kind of rally where I have to drive at maximum speed all the time. It was hard to concentrate but I've improved as the day has gone on and won the last stage. It's hard when your head wants to do one thing and your body can't keep up."
Martin had one scare today at the Ruuhimäki stage jump when the Focus landed nose to the ground. "Tomorrow's stages are quite difficult and I will need to drive flat out again all day," added Martin. "Marcus has a good lead and it will be hard to catch him but I think second is possible."