by Rob Wilkins.

BP Ford team leader, Marcus Gronholm is the only driver that has really come anywhere near Sebastien Loeb this season. Indeed other than the Frenchman, the Ford ace is the only one that has managed to win a round of the WRC, taking three victories, the most recent at the last event in Greece.

Here the Finn speaks exclusively to Crash.net Radio about his season to date and the events coming up in August in Germany and Finland...

Related Articles

Q:
Marcus, I think it is fair to say you have enjoyed a pretty good season to date since joining the BP Ford team. Yes, you have had a few ups and downs, but overall you must be delighted to be back up there and right in contention for rally wins at virtually every event?

Marcus Gronholm:
Yeah I am happy because I have a really competitive and winning car again - and the whole package is good. So I am happy with the situation. Of course I am not 100 per cent happy, because Sebastien is so far in front in the points - but otherwise it has been a good.

Q:
As you say, despite your form and that of Ford, Sebastien has managed to pull out a 29-point advantage. What is Ford doing at the moment to give you the best possible chance of coming back at him in the second half of the season?

MG:
Yeah everybody is working hard in Ford and for sure with reliability they are working and so it looks quite good now. But I need help from Sebastien if I want to win the championship because it is difficult to catch him with such a big gap.

Q:
The Focus you are using this year is obviously very different to the Peugeot 307. How difficult or easy has it been to adapt to the Ford?

MG:
I don't want to really compare these two cars. I had my good years with Peugeot. But OK, it [the Focus] is a completely different car and this one is maybe a bit easier to drive and so that makes the difference.

Q:
The WRC is in the midst of the long summer break, what tests do the team have planned?

MG:
For the moment we have a Germany test coming up and then also a Finnish test for the Neste Rally Finland. There is one development test as well - so three tests before the next rally.

Q:
Germany is next up - Sebastien has won that event every year since it joined the WRC schedule in 2002, can you stop him from making if five in a row in August?

MG:
One year [2003] we were really close, I was only 3 seconds behind him and so I think it is possible with a good [opening] day from me. I am sure the car has the potential to win. We just have to try.

Q:
Your home event follows that in Finland. You must be really looking forward to it?

MG:
Yeah, it is of course one of my good events and so we will see. It will be nice to see how the car is going there during the summer, during the tests and then it is easier to say [how we will do].

Q:
Ford should get lots of support there shouldn't they, especially as your team-mate, Mikko Hirvonen is also a Finn?

MG:
Yeah exactly, so we are really a Finish team! Back here in Finland I hope we can do a good rally and maybe get a 1-2 finish.

Q:
How are you getting on working with Mikko?

MG:
It is OK. He is good and there is absolutely no problem, we work together well and share everything in the tests.

Q:
Staying with your rivals in the WRC: What have you made of the performances of Daniel Sordo and Matthew Wilson?

MG:
Dani Sordo has been very good this year - and for sure he will find a full factory seat in 2007, I am quite sure. Matthew is very young still and he has a learning year this one and so let's see what he can do in the future - there is no real panic for him.

Q:
Looking to next year, what work is planned with the Focus for 2007? What improvements do the team have lined-up?

MG:
For the moment I don't know exactly what they have planned for the car. There is some new developments going on, but not so big I think. We can be competitive next year though, because everything is ready and we have done a full season. We will have done all the rallies with the car and because this year all the rallies are new [with it] except Australia. So we will see.

Q:
Final question: Citroen will be introducing their new car, the C4 next season. Do you think that will help your cause especially early on if they have teething problems with it?

MG:
I hope they will have some [laughs] - but for sure they are quite ready because they have much more time than Ford had. They are already testing since, I don't know, half a year ago they started? Even maybe more, before that... So they have had a really good time to make everything ready. So OK we will see what we they are going to do. I don't know.

Q:
Do you expect the C4 to be strong out of the box?

MG:
I hope not - but I don't know how it will be. We will see.