Interview: Marcus Gronholm - Winter sport With three previous wins to his name, Marcus Gronholm is determined to improve his and Peugeot's score on this event which he particularly enjoys-- Q: A mechanical problem put you out of contention...
Interview: Marcus Gronholm - Winter sport
With three previous wins to his name, Marcus Gronholm is determined to improve his and Peugeot's score on this event which he particularly enjoys--
Q: A mechanical problem put you out of contention in Sweden last year but you set the highest number of fastest stage times. Will you be out for revenge in 2005?
Marcus Gronholm: "With a year's experience under its belt, the 307 WRC's teething troubles are now behind it. After an occasionally difficult first season, it is now reliable and still very competitive. The team worked hard over the winter and the testing we did was very positive. Our Pirelli tyres seem to work well but we have not of course been able to make any direct comparisons with our rivals so we will see when the rally starts. It's clear that our rivals haven't stood still either and I am not expecting it to be easy, but my objective will be to win."
Q: Compared with 2004, the 307 WRC will have a five-speed gearbox and wider track dimensions. Is that an advantage on this type of terrain?
MG: "The wider tracks aren't really a 'plus', although they will surely make the car look even stranger sitting on the narrow, studded tyres we run in Sweden! However, the 2005 car has progressed in terms of its suspension and aerodynamics and that will be useful. I don't think the number of gears will make a significant difference as far as making the most of the car's power is concerned on such a flat event which features few tight corners that call for hard acceleration. That said, I prefer the five-speed gearbox. I feel it makes my driving style more natural. I won't need to find my marks and it will be important to drive flat out. That's indispensable to win here."
Q: The Swedish stages are fast but icy. How do you go about finding the limits of the car and grip?
MG: "You have to be totally concentrated. For sure, it's not easy to establish exactly where the limit lies on this sort of event. I found that out to my cost last year, while pushing hard to claw back the minute I dropped early in the rally. The 307 WRC was then at an early phase in its development and its handling was still perfectible. After two spins, I told myself it was time to back off a notch. You really have to feel at one with your car and be clear in your mind when driving on a knife edge. And the task isn't made any easier when you're trying to make up for lost time. That said, when you have a good feeling, it is effectively possible to find that little bit of extra speed that can make the difference when you're driving to win--"
Q: You have already shown that you can win in Sweden. Why do you like this event so much?
MG: "It's effectively my favourite rally, especially when the conditions are really wintry. It's very fast and that suits my style, perhaps more so even than Rally Finland. Feeling the studs bite into the ice as the car powers from one high speed corner to the next is particularly exhilarating. Maybe it's the pleasure I get that makes me feel so good and enables me to go so quickly here--"
Q: Mild weather can mean having to do without the snow walls that traditionally line the stages. Does that make it more difficult for you to drive flat out?
MG: "Let's say it's a little more dangerous if you go wide. The problem isn't so much the absence of snow walls but the lack of ice on the ground which causes the studs to wear more quickly or to come out of the tread blocks. The stages also tend to cut up which means your driving style is not so smooth. You can still drive flat out but it's much less fun--"
Q: What strengths does a car need to be competitive in Sweden?
MG: "Through the very fast, long corners, the car needs to be very balanced, progressive in its handling and also very responsive to the slightest instruction via the steering-wheel. For the studs to bite effectively into the ice, you also need good traction, while a powerful engine is important for speed."