Peugeot-Michelin and Marcus GrÃ¶nholm triumph in style Victory on home soil for Marcus GrÃ¶nholm has put Peugeot-Michelin well and truly back in the championship frame. The reigning Drivers' World Champion led in Finland practically Vfrom start...
Peugeot-Michelin and Marcus Grönholm triumph in style
Victory on home soil for Marcus Grönholm has put Peugeot-Michelin well and truly back in the championship frame. The reigning Drivers' World Champion led in Finland practically Vfrom start to finish to secure his first win of 2001 and to put a halt to a personal barren spell that dates back to last November's Rally Australia. The weekend's success is the first for the 206 WRC itself since Auriol's win in Spain in March. And only a broken shockabsorber for Harri Rovanperä (4th) on the final group of stages deprived the French outfit from securing a resounding one-two in Jyväskylä. Instead, the Finn's last minute troubles allowed Burns (2nd, Subaru) and McRae (3rd, Ford) to join Grönholm on the podium.
For the second year in a row, Marcus Grönholm has emerged as the sport's N°1 'Flying Finn' in front of local fans. The Peugeot-Michelin driver's calm temperament and intelligently paced run on this high- speed sprint enabled him to defeat Subaru's Richard Burn by a margin of exactly 25 seconds after 406km over his native country's infamous jumps. After a cruelly lean period for the Finn since the start of the year, during which time his only top result has been a podium finish in Portugal, today's victory rekindled his chances of keeping his 2000 world crown. However, he still has a significant points deficit to make up on series leader Tommi Mäkinen (Mitsubishi-Michelin) who maintains his top-of-the-table status despite early retirement on his home event's opening stage.
On the Manufacturers' front, Mitsubishi-Michelin stays on top of the classification, equal with Ford, but today's result has also served to bring Peugeot-Michelin's title bid back alive. Grönholm's first class work, combined with 4th place for teammate Harri Rovanperä, harvested 13 points in Finland, taking last year's winning team past Subaru in the 2001 championship stakes. And the French squad will surely have in mind that, in 2000, the 206 WRC won four of the current calendar's five remaining rounds (New Zealand, Sanremo, Corsica, Australia)...
Right up to the last moment, it very much looked as though Peugeot-Michelin was in fact going to achieve a one-two finish this afternoon (Sunday). Throughout the event, its other local hero Harri Rovanperä kept his head down (6 fastest stage times from 20) to stay in contention for top honours despite early suspension trouble. After he fought back from 5th to 2nd place ahead of Burns (Subaru) and McRae (Ford) on Day 2, it effectively seemed as though all hardest work had been done. Going into the final group of stages, his 12.3s margin over Burns looked sufficient, if not 100% comfortable. However, at the end of the penultimate test, a shockabsorber failed, forcing him to run with the broken unit through the final stage. The time lost over that 25km test was sufficient not only to allow Burns through to 2nd overall, but also to enable McRae to squeeze the devastated Finn off the podium by... 1.6 seconds!
Subaru's Markko Martin (5th, Subaru) and Ford man Carlos Sainz (6th, Ford) were the other two drivers to finish in the points, while Petter Solberg (7th) picked up the final Manufacturers' point.
There were few retirements to report amongst the leading crews, although spectators were disappointed to see the rally lose both its local superstars, Tommi Mäkinen (accident, Day 1, Mitsubishi-Michelin) and Juha Kankkunen (brakes, Day 2, Hyundai-Michelin). Meanwhile, 1992 '1000 Lakes' winner Didier Auriol was forced out with suspension damage at around half-distance having figured as high as 4th overall. The final day saw the retirements of François Delecour (fuel pressure, Ford) and Toni Gardemeister (accident, Mitsubishi-Michelin).
Victory in the FIA Super 1600 Super Cup went to Citroën-Michelin's Sébastien Loeb whose combination of speed and tactical sense saw him finish more than 5½ minutes clear of Andrea Dallavilla (Fiat Punto). With three wins from as many rounds to his name, Loeb is clear leader of the newly-created championship.
MICHELIN'S RALLY... @Michelin tyres on top again in Finland
16th SUCCESS IN FINLAND... Michelin's win this weekend in association with Marcus Grönholm and Peugeot was its 16th victory since 1983 in Rally Finland which, because of its high-speeds, demands the same steering precision and response from the tyres as a tarmac event. In the past ten years, Michelin has won this event with five different manufacturer partners (Ford, Lancia, Mitsubishi, Peugeot and Toyota).
CONDITIONS... The three-day event was essentially dry throughout, with some lingering damp patches in the trees. Temperatures were milder than they have been for a long time in Finland, peaking at a maximum of 23°C air/30°C ground (minimum: 13°C air and ground).
CHOICE... Three of Michelin's WRC partners present in Finland (Mitsubishi, Peugeot and Hyundai) selected the Michelin Z and Michelin ZA patterns for this event and used the ZA pattern throughout. Skoda chose the Michelin Z and Michelin ZE, using mostly a cut 'Z' pattern. The difference between early morning temperatures and those later in the day saw drivers switch from the 8 compound to the harder 9 compound over the day, the latter being the choice most widely used over the weekend.