Gronholm closes on debut win with Ford in MC
21 January 2006
Ford's Marcus Gronholm remains firmly in control on the Rallye Monte Carlo following the second leg Saturday.
The Finn set times in the top three on all of the days stages - bar the final one, when he was fifth and as such he as seen his advantage stretched from 1 minute 23.7 seconds overnight to 2mins 5.9secs going into the final leg Sunday.
Toni Gardemeister is second, in his Astra Racing Peugeot 307, just 2.9 seconds up on Manfred Stohl, who is also in a 307, although his is run by Bozian, under the OMV Peugeot Norway WRT banner.
Sebastien Loeb meanwhile though has been the sensation of the day, after re-starting under the SupeRally system. The Frenchman completed a clean sweep of stages, winning 5 out of 5. Six tests were due to be run Saturday, however traffic congestion, led to SS11 being cancelled. Loeb though hasn't looked back after his error at the end of leg 1, which cost him the lead. Indeed he has been blindingly quick in the Kronos Citroen Xsara WRC and as such has climbed back up the leader-board, and is now around 30 seconds off a possible podium place.
Stephane Sarrazin is the lead Subaru, in fifth, the Frenchman enjoying a good day, while Chris Atkinson's star faded somewhat, after he held second overnight. The Aussie, who is making his Monte Carlo debut dropped down to sixth overall in the sister Impreza, over 2.5 minutes off second place. He had two spins in SS9, losing around 30secs, while further time was lost in SS10, after he selected the wrong tyres.
Junior champion, Daniel Sordo has broken into a points' position on his debut in a World Rally Car - and lies seventh. The highlight of the day for him was setting the second quickest in SS10, as he continues to adapt to the Xsara WRC.
Gilles Panizzi has continued to lose time and drop down the leaderboard with handling problems. The Red Bull Skoda driver had been second at one point on Friday, but now looks set to come under pressure from Mikko Hirvonen, in the second works Ford. The Finn is just 7.3 seconds behind in ninth.
Xavier Pons rounds out the top ten, ahead of Olivier Burri, Jan Kopecky, Andreas Aigner, Matthew Wilson, Pieter Tsjoen and Henning Solberg, who are 11th to 16th respectively.
In the Production Car WRC category, Fumio Nutahara, who is incidentally 18th overall, is more than comfortable in P1, over 1 minute up on Nasser Al-Attiyah, while Brit David Higgins is on course for the final PCWRC podium position.
There were two notable retirements Saturday - namely Gigi Galli and Francois Duval. Galli, who re-started this morning after damaging his suspension on leg 1, was again forced out, when he had gearbox woes after SS8, while Duval went off the road in SS9. It is not yet known whether they will be able to re-start Sunday.
The event now concludes on Sunday, with SS13 beginning at 07.55 hours local time. Six more tests remain to be run, again with two loops of three, amounting to around 120 competitive kilometres.
Can Gronholm hold on for a debut win with Ford?
Stay tuned to Crash.net to find out...