Marcus Gronholm (Peugeot) dominated the day. The Finn was fastest on six of the eight stages to open a 67.0sec lead over Sebastien Loeb (Citroen). Gronholm, who admitted to not attacking the jumps to protect injured co-driver Timo Rautiainen's ...
Marcus Gronholm (Peugeot) dominated the day. The Finn was fastest on six of the eight stages to open a 67.0sec lead over Sebastien Loeb (Citroen). Gronholm, who admitted to not attacking the jumps to protect injured co-driver Timo Rautiainen's back, had his hopes of victory boosted when Loeb lost 35 seconds on the last stage after hitting a rock and puncturing a front left tyre. Markko Martin (Peugeot) holds the final podium place, the Estonian much happier with the revised suspension fitted to his car for this event. Fourth-placed Petter Solberg (Subaru) lost time on stage 14 when his car's rear brake line split but he recovered to hold off the charging Hirvonen. Sebastian Lindholm (Peugeot) failed to start this morning when co-driver Tomi Tuominen was advised by doctors not to continue after being one of several co-drivers to suffer a back injury during a vicious jump on the Vellipohja stage yesterday. Gigi Galli (Mitsubishi) re-started under the SupeRally rules but went off the road on the first stage and retired for good while Manfred Stohl went off on the same stage and broke his car's suspension. Chris Atkinson (Subaru) also re-started under SupeRally but rolled into retirement at a fourth gear bend on the penultimate stage.
With just a few kilometres remaining before the end of the day's final stage (Himos), Sebastien Loeb, Daniel Elena and their Citroen were in a strong position, just 30 seconds behind Marcus Gronholm. But at that moment, a puncture cost them 37s and dropped them more than a minute adrift of the leader. They continue to hold 2nd place however, while Francois Duval and Sven Smeets have stuck to their game plan and continue to run in 8th position.
Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena: "I gave it everything I could. There was nothing I could do. Marcus was faster. Tomorrow, without taking any risks, I will try to keep Markko Martin at bay with a view to scoring as many points as possible for myself and Citroen."
Francois Duval/Sven Smeets: "I was a bit quick into a left-hander and I preferred to take the safe option by going straight on into a farmyard where I was able to turn round. Apart from Seb, all the drivers ahead of me are Nordics and they are never easy to beat here. The positive thing is that I haven't made any mistakes and I am still on target to score points which is my objective."
After another incident-filled day on the gravel roads of Rally Finland, Petter Solberg moved up the leaderboard to hold fourth place overnight. Solberg's pace increased steadily throughout the Leg, and he set a string of increasingly competitive times before a split brake pipe forced him to ease off on two stages in the afternoon. Petter will start tomorrow's final day of competition 39sec behind Markko Martin's third place. Chris Atkinson impressed many with his pace on today's notoriously tricky stages. On his WRC class debut in Finland, the youngster traded times with far more experienced drivers and, on SS13, he set the third fastest time. Chris's day was cut short when he went off the road on the penultimate test of the day, but he hopes to re-join the event tomorrow as a Superally entrant.
Petter Solberg/Phil Mills: "It was good to see the car look like new again after all the work the team did last night. But today was so difficult as we've been looking for the right set up for the conditions. Sometimes that's just how it is. Just before the long stage today we tried some damper changes to get more traction, but I found that it made the car slide so much and we lost a lot of grip. Then, on the last stage, we tried some new changes and that was so much better. I think we'll keep the same setting for tomorrow. We'll keep trying with the four stages left, but it's a short day and the aim is to keep winning the fight for fourth."
Chris Atkinson/Glen MacNeall: "Today was one of the best days rallying I can remember. To come to Finland and consistently match times with the top drivers was just fantastic. Everything has been working so well all day, the car, the tyres and overall package. It was a shame such a small mistake cut short a great day, but we just got caught out when we got stuck in a rut coming out of a corner and then hit a bump with the car tipping over into a ditch just off the road on the second last stage. To be fast in the long term we need to be quick and you have to risk the odd mistake. The crowd got us back on the road after a few minutes, but we didn't want to press on in case we damaged the engine. Hopefully we'll be back out with the car again tomorrow."
Both BP-Ford World Rally Team pairings hold points scoring positions after a blistering second leg of the Rally Finland today. Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen are fifth in their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car, while Toni Gardemeister and Jakke Honkanen lie seventh in a similar car despite losing two minutes and three positions on the longest speed test of the event this evening.
Toni Gardemeister/Jakke Honkanen: "The speeds were higher today than I've ever known. I think I pushed too hard in Ouninpohja this morning, going sideways too much and losing time. My tyre choice was too soft for the repeat stages there this afternoon and they started to move around a bit. The road surface was cleaner and I tried to drive more smoothly than this morning but it didn't make any difference to my times"
Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen: "Yesterday was a medium plus day for me, this morning was a medium minus but this afternoon I was back to a medium plus again. I compared my times with Toni and Petter and I won a second here, and lost a second there, so it was up and down all day. Before the rally I thought that if I was going to lose time it would be today, but that wasn't the case.
Roman Kresta/Jan Mozny: "I entered a left bend too fast and slid into a ditch. Jan opened the door to climb out just as I spun the wheels and he was covered in mud! There were many spectators there who pushed and lifted the car back on the road. Without their help we would not have continued so a big thanks to them."
Peugeot 307 WRC drivers Marcus Gronholm and Markko Martin have consolidated their positions at the sharp end of the leaderboard during the second leg of Rally Finland. Marcus Gronholm keeps his first place, extending his advantage over Sebastien Loeb from 5.8 seconds this morning to more than a minute by the end of the day. Markko Martin maintains his third position, having pulled out a margin of 39.8 seconds over Petter Solberg.
Marcus Gronholm/Timo Rautiainen: "It's been a very good day, although I could not have expected to have a lead of a minute by the end of today! Actually that does not change things so much as we have been fast all day and I think we know that the speed is there. Our tyre choice this morning was perfect for Ouninpohja, and we had no problems at all. However there are still four stages run together tomorrow without service so we have to stay concentrated. Anything can still happen."
Markko Martin/Michael Park: "It's been another good run through the stages today: this is definitely the best rally of my year so far. I've got confidence in the handling of the car now and of course the engine is very good, which has allowed us to set some fast times. We've moved ahead of the battle we were in with Toni Gardemeister and Petter Solberg so tomorrow our plan is to drive for a podium finish."
The Skoda Motorsport World Rally Team completed the second leg of Rally Finland with Janne Tuohino in 10th place and Armin Schwarz in 11th. Jani Paasonen did not restart this morning as the penalties he collected under the SupeRally system would have been impossible to overcome. On today's stages Janne increased his pace and again set several top 10 stage times. He moved into ninth place by SS15 but on SS16, the longest stage of the event, the large amount of loose rocks and gravel slowed him sufficiently to cost him a place.
Armin Schwarz/Klaus Wicha: "The car has been fine again for most of the day but I had too soft tyres for the first runs over Ouninpohja and by the end of the first group of stages there was very little grip left. We lost the auto gearshift on SS16 but we survived and can still get a good result."
Jani Paasonen/Jani Vainikka: Retired
Janne Touhino/Mikko Markkula: "This morning I tried to push a bit harder and I closed the gap to the people ahead of me. This afternoon's stages had a lot of loose gravel that didn't suit our set-up and I was disappointed to lose a place on SS16 which was especially rough. We will keep pushing tomorrow and see if we can recover the position."
At the end of the second leg of Rally Finland, round 10 of the FIA World Rally Championship, Harri Rovanpera and Risto Pietilainen have moved into sixth position in the Lancer WRC05. However, team-mates "Gigi" Galli and Guido d'Amore were once again on the sidelines having gone off the road in SS12. The pair will not start the final leg in view of the damage caused to the chassis and suspension components.
Harri Rovanpera/Risto Pietilainen: "Today has not been so bad and we have tried to push as hard as possible all day. We had a lot of moments though, with the car too sideways, but for sure it was better than yesterday. Since changing the damper set-up earlier in the afternoon the car has been a lot more precise, but maybe we lose some grip. Tomorrow the first stage is not so bad, but the second I have only driven once before and it's quite soft, very fast and one where you need a lot of power. As for keeping ahead of Toni (Gardemeister), we just have to see."
Gigi Galli/Guido D'Amore: "We made one mistake over a jump and lost control; I couldn't do a thing. Lining the car up for the next right-hand corner I turned too much and when we landed the car snatched away from me. We hit a tree and damaged the front corner. I have never hit anything in that way before; it was big scare for Guido and me."