Finnish driver Marcus Gronholm has won the 13th round of the FIA World Rally Championship, the Rally Australia, which finished in Perth this afternoon.
Gronholm and his navigator Timo Rautiainen started today's four stages comfortably clear of their nearest rivals and they maintained their advantage through the remaining kilometres in the Sotico forest complex to secure their fifth victory of the season.
Team-mates Harri Rovanpera and Voitto Silander fought past Petter Solberg
today to ensure a one-two for Peugeot, the eighth of the season.
The Sotico stages, well known for the spectacular jumps and watersplash, were viewed by thousands of spectators. They had plenty of incidents to watch; Carlos Sainz rolled his Ford Focus but continued, his team-mate Francois Duval crashed out and the sole remaining Hyundai of Juha Kankkunen succumbed to engine failure in the final stage.
The Peugeot 206 WRCs of Gronholm and Rovanpera have been reliable during the final leg. Gronholm's only slight concern occurred when his information screen reported a slipping clutch, even though the unit itself was working perfectly.
Gronholm cruised through today's four stages to secure his third Rally Australia win in succession, and claim his fifth victory of this season. The Finn and navigator Timo Rautiainen had been rarely troubled during the event, which they had led since the third stage on Friday.
''This has been one of the easiest wins for me this year but at the same time, I had to keep concentration for two days when I had a very strong lead,'' commented Gronholm. ''Today was just about watching the speed of the guys behind and making sure they didn't take too much time out of me. I'm very happy, of course, and now I'm sure I can take this motivation and confidence into the last round in Britain.''
Team-mate Harri Rovanpera meanwhile was today's charger, setting fastest times on both of this morning's opening pair of stages to ease past Petter Solberg
and into second overall. The former Swedish Rally winner then increased his advantage over the Norwegian to secure a one-two for the Peugeot team.
''I did a full, full, full attack this morning,'' said Rovanpera. ''We took some risks and it paid off, because we got ahead of Petter. Then we had to be more careful because some of the stages today had big rocks. It was enough, though, because we pulled some more time on him before the end. I'm quite happy - the first day didn't go so well for me but things improved and we have set some very good times yesterday and today.''