BP Ford number one driver, Marcus Gronholm won the Rally of Turkey on Sunday, the thirteenth round in the 2006 FIA World Rally Championship – the first time he has stood on the top step on this event.
Gronholm stamped his authority on proceedings from the off and after SS1 and SS2 were cancelled due to the weather conditions, he splashed his way into the early lead, by topping the times on the SS3, 24.9 seconds quicker than Petter Solberg, who was 'best of the rest'. The Finn then proceeded to increase his advantage on the second loop on Friday and while SS4 was also abandoned and SS5 cut in half, he returned to the second service after SS6, having increased his cushion to 37 seconds.
Marcus didn't have it all his own way though and Solberg kept him honest throughout the event, cutting the Finn's lead back to 26 seconds following the final loop on Friday. That battle continued on Saturday and while Gronholm stretched his lead on the first and second loop to 43.4 seconds, Petter once again came back at him on the third, taking back 9.3 seconds in SS14. The next test though proved to be the turning point and when Petter went off the road 4 kilometres from the start, Marcus was handed the win on a plate. He then proceeded to cruise through the remaining tests, leading home a BP Ford
Gronholm eventually took the win by over 2 minutes, his fifth of the season, and in doing so he cut Sebastien Loeb's advantage at the top of the drivers' championship from 35 points to 25 – with three rounds still to go and 30 points up for grabs. Loeb of course missed this event after his mountain bike accident, which left him with a broken arm. It is not yet known when he will re-join the fold, although currently it is thought he should be back for the Rally New Zealand in November, which will mean he will miss Rally Australia as well, later this month. That has still to be confirmed though.
Mikko Hirvonen meanwhile was delighted to take the runners-up spot, especially given how tough this event has been, with the weather throwing everything at the drivers' – including fog, rain, sunshine and even a bit of snow and hail towards the end of the second leg. The result, his sixth podium in seventh rallies moves him up into third in the drivers' championship, four points ahead of Daniel Sordo, while BP Ford
now lead the manufacturers' following their perfect 1-2 finish. Indeed having been 7 points behind coming into this event, the M-Sport-run squad are now 8 points ahead of Kronos Citroen.
OMV Peugeot's Henning Solberg
took the final place on the podium, 21.4 seconds up on Xavier Pons, who was fourth. It is the first time Henning has been on the rostrum, his previous best WRC results, two fourth place finishes. Henning set a number of good stages times throughout the event and third was just reward for the Norwegian, although it is perhaps slightly bitter-sweet, as he only got it after his brother, Petter, went off the road on day two.
Pons took fourth in the third Kronos-run Citroen
Xsara WRC. The Spaniard went into the third leg in sixth, but moved up two places with a string of top times on the final three stages, posting the second best time in SS17, the fourth best in SS18 and the third best in SS19.
Further down the leader-board Kosti Katajamaki took fifth for the Stobart
VK squad. Katajamaki put in a top performance all weekend and has been running strongly from the off, after going third fastest on the opening stage. He backed that up with a second best time on SS15 on Saturday and while he had a few minor problems, the result was his best to date in the WRC – and the best for the team.
Subaru's number two driver, Chris Atkinson
had to settle for sixth having lost time on the final day. He had been pushing to try and beat Henning to third but lost out in SS18 when he spun and took a while to get going again.