PEUGEOT IN A GOOD POSITION GOING INTO THE NEW ZEALAND SPRINT Thanks to its record since the beginning of the season, including a double podium in Mexico, Peugeot is in a favourable situation as it prepares for Rally New Zealand. The French...
PEUGEOT IN A GOOD POSITION GOING INTO THE NEW ZEALAND SPRINT
Thanks to its record since the beginning of the season, including a double podium in Mexico, Peugeot is in a favourable situation as it prepares for Rally New Zealand. The French outfit effectively leads the Manufacturers' championship while its two drivers figure strongly in the Drivers' standings. Marcus Grönholm, three-times winner in Auckland with Peugeot, and Markko Märtin, who finished 3rd last year, both have high hopes for the fourth round of the 2005 championship.
Marcus Grönholm and his new team-mate Markko Märtin can be forgiven for the big smile they had on their face in Leon after their podium finish in Rally Mexico. The Finn, who was looking for a good result following his misadventure in Sweden, and the Estonian, who has been particularly consistent since the start of the year, have taken Peugeot to top spot in the chase for the Manufacturers' title. It's the first time the team has been in this position since the 2003 Rally Australia.
From the three rounds of the championship organised so far this year (Monte Carlo, Sweden, Mexico), the 307 WRC has secured five points finishes from a possible six and has proved both reliable and competitive, as seen in Mexico where the team's Pirelli tyres were also strong on the loose; an encouraging sign, since ten of the thirteen remaining rounds will take place on gravel.
Rally New Zealand has regularly been happy hunting ground for Peugeot in the past. The fixture has also long been a favourite with the drivers because of its magnificent stages which, as in Sweden and Finland, place the accent on driver skill, although average speeds are lower and the roads are not quite so delicate.
It's the type of event in which Marcus Grönholm revels. In 2000, he took his first win in Auckland at third attempt driving the 206 before collecting two further wins with the same car in 2002 and 2003. Last year, driving the still fledgling 307 WRC, he was again involved in the thick of the fight for first place and was less than six seconds behind the winner when he lost ground following a roll.
The Finn hasn't forgotten that incident and is very much looking forward to this year's visit to the southern hemisphere event: "It's a rally I like very much. I can't wait to be back in New Zealand and I'm hoping for a good result. As in Mexico, my main objective will be to finish in the points but that doesn't rule out going for a win. In 2004, I finished 2nd when the 307 WRC was still very new. The situation is different this time."
Markko Märtin is another Rally New Zealand fan. He took part in the event for the first time in 2002 and scored his best result there (3rd, just seconds behind his current team-mate Marcus Grönholm) twelve months ago. His patience and consistency since joining Peugeot have taken him to 2nd place in the provisional Drivers' standings, just one point behind the leader. Increasingly confident in the 307 WRC, the Estonian also has a good chance of scoring a top result this time round.