by Rob Wilkins

TO HEAR THE INTERVIEW IN FULL WITH MARCUS GRONHOLM: CLICK HERE

BP Ford team leader, Marcus Gronholm is currently engaged in a fierce fight with Sebastien Loeb for the 2007 WRC drivers' title. Crash.net Radio caught up with the Finn recently ahead of the final five events of the season to chat to him about that battle - and his decision to retire from the sport at the end of this year after more than 140 events at the top level...

Related Articles

Crash.net:
Marcus, it was announced earlier this month that you will retire from the WRC at the end of this season. Does that decision make you even more determined to try and take the title, so that you go out on a high?

Marcus Gronholm:
Of course it would be nice to win and take the title, but we will see. There are still many rallies to go and I am really concentrating on them. Maybe it gives me a little extra kick to try and win.

Crash.net:
When did you decide this would be your last year in the WRC? How tough a decision was it?

MG:
Yeah it will be my last year in the WRC now. It was a hard decision but I have to do it someday - and maybe now is the right time. I still feel that I could drive something but not the whole season, maybe something in motorsport. I don't know yet what I will do next year.

Crash.net:
You took the win on the last event in New Zealand after a fantastic battle with Sebastien Loeb, which culminated in you coming out top by just 0.3 seconds. How satisfying was that victory?

MG:
It was a fantastic feeling after we had such a big fight. We were so close together starting the last stage less than 1 second apart and finishing there on the super special stage so close to our team and people made it extra special. It was a good feeling.

Crash.net:
You have currently got a ten point advantage in the drivers' championship over Loeb. How important is that cushion?

MG:
Of course it is much better to be in the lead and in front, but ten points, it sounds a lot, however it is not. We still have five rallies and I have to finish them. If I retire once and he wins it is gone. I am not super confident. I will just go on and try to do my best.

Crash.net:
Coming up we have the back-to-back asphalt events in Spain and France. What is the target for those events?

MG:
Those two are going to be strong rallies for Sebastien and I need to really do as well as I can. It is possible to beat him in one of these rallies - that would be fantastic. But otherwise I need to finish second.

Crash.net:
Loeb has often led the way on asphalt in recent years, how difficult does that make things for you, in light of the fact that three out of the five remaining events are on tarmac?

MG:
It is true, but I don't want to think so much about it. I will do my best and if it is possible to win I will try and do it. Ireland is a new rally - it is a tarmac, slippery one. Let's see - it could be a different story there.

Crash.net:
You did the Galway International Rally back in February in Ireland, while Mikko Hirvonen is going to do the Cork Rally at the end of this month. How important is all that running for the inaugural Rally Ireland?

MG:
Of course it is important preparation and now Mikko is doing the Cork Rally we can get some extra information from that. It is good.

Crash.net:
Do you think Mikko Hirvonen is ready to step up and lead the BP Ford World Rally Team in 2008?

MG:
He has done some really good rallies this season - but he needs to step up a little bit more to really fight with Seb. I cannot say how it will be next year.

Crash.net:
If you were Ford boss Malcolm Wilson who would you be considering to partner Mikko in 2008?

MG: [laughs] I don't know exactly. OK, Jari-Matti has definitely had the speed and maybe he can use a different driver as well in the second car. I don't know what he is thinking.

Crash.net:
Would it be too soon to promote Jari-Matti Latvala from what is effectively the Ford 'B' team?

MG:
I think he could do the job. Like I said he has the speed.

Crash.net:
It has been a bit of a two-horse race this year, between Ford and Citroen and yourself and Loeb. Have you been surprised by Subaru's failure to bounce back?

MG:
It is a little bit strange that they haven't been up there, but there are some signs they are getting there. They are quick sometimes. Chris Atkinson especially has done some very good rallies recently. I think they are not far away.

Crash.net:
Looking to towards the end of the year, it has been announced that you will do the Race of Champions event at Wembley. Are you looking forward to that?

MG:
It is after the last rally, Wales Rally GB. It is not a serious thing. It is more a fun thing to do after the season.

Crash.net:
I know you mentioned this earlier, but can you say anything more on what you are considering for next season post-life in the WRC?

MG:
I have got a lot of offers to do various different things. I don't know. We will see.

TO HEAR THE INTERVIEW IN FULL WITH MARCUS GRONHOLM: CLICK HERE