PEUGEOT INCREASES CHAMPIONSHIP LEAD Peugeot has underlined its excellent start to the season in New Zealand by once more bringing two cars home to the finish. Marcus Gronholm takes his second consecutive runner-up position, while Markko Martin...
PEUGEOT INCREASES CHAMPIONSHIP LEAD
Peugeot has underlined its excellent start to the season in New Zealand by once more bringing two cars home to the finish. Marcus Gronholm takes his second consecutive runner-up position, while Markko Martin finishes fifth after an exciting battle with Ford driver Toni Gardemeister. Peugeot has therefore reinforced its position leading the constructors' championship, 12 points ahead of Citroen and 15 points ahead of Subaru.
The rally returned to parc ferme in Auckland on Saturday night for the third and final leg, which took place 180 kilometres to the south of the city on Sunday. The last day's route comprised two loops of two stages, including the famous Whaanga Coast test consisting of 30 kilometres of twisty coastal roads which run alongside the Tasmanian Sea. The challenge for Peugeot Sport was two-fold: Marcus had to maintain his small advantage over Petter Solberg while Markko needed to try and take fifth place from Toni Gardemeister. Both drivers were able to accomplish their respective missions, scoring 12 valuable points for Peugeot.
Marcus Gronholm: "Before the rally started I thought I could win, but this turned out not to be possible: the combination of Sebastien and Citroen was too fast to catch. In any case, I am reasonably happy to finish second. I had a big fight with Petter, but I was quite confident I could keep him behind me. I am happy with the reliability of the car; we have had two good finishes in a row and that gives me a lot of confidence. I am a little bit disappointed not to take the win, but generally speaking I am satisfied with our performance."
Markko Martin: "I have made a big step in understanding how to drive the 307 WRC on this rally, but I think I discovered it a bit late. I tried changing my driving style during the last afternoon of the rally and it seemed to work well: I was able to pass Toni Gardemeister and take fifth. I need to left foot brake a bit more, but this is quite a different driving style to what I am used to. The final result could have been better, but it's more important that I understand the 307 WRC and our new Pirelli tyres as best as I can, so this rally has been an extremely useful experience."
Jean-Pierre Nicolas: "Firstly, this rally was perfect from a mechanical point of view: we did not have the slightest problem with either of the cars. Marcus drove a fantastic rally, attacking Petter Solberg with everything he knew, behind Sebastien Loeb who was just uncatchable here. As for Markko, it seems that he made a breakthrough on the final stage, and that he found a new way of driving that will put him at ease with our 307 WRC. Our goal of bringing both cars home in the points has been achieved: we keep the lead of the championship with 12 points in hand over Citroen and 15 over Subaru. There is still a long way to go, and we have to maintain this reliability but that alone is not enough. We are aware that we have to work closely with our tyre partner Pirelli in order to maximise the potential of the rubber and better understand the tyre range."