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Gronholm strokes it home.

Marcus Gronholm became the first driver to win the World Rally Championship for Peugeot since Juha Kankkunen achieved the feat 14 years ago after a faultless drive in Rally GB.

After the first of Sunday's three special stages, rally leader Richard Burns conceded that there was nothing else he could do in his quest to win the 2000 WRC Title and that he had no choice but to sit back and bank on Peugeot's Marcus Gronholm either making a mistake or running into mechanical problems.

The English Subaru driver had come out fighting on the 29 kilometre Brechfa stage, setting fastest time overall to put his lead over Gronholm up to nearly 40 seconds but with just two more Special Stages to go before the cars returned to Cardiff for the final time, the chances of the Finn making an uncharacteristic mistake were almost nil.

Gronholm had by his own admission been 'driving like my Grandmother' on Saturday and he adopted the same strategy once again as he dropped 17 seconds to Burns en-route to sixth fastest time but with a 50 second cushion back to third placed Carlos Sainz he knew he could afford not to take any risks.

Sainz however had no such barrier for despite setting fourth quickest time overall, a full 15 seconds ahead of fourth placed Tommi Makinen, the gap between the two was just 16 seconds. Even though he was only ninth on the stage Makinen declared himself happier with his Mitsubishi than he has all weekend and was looking to make a strong run to the finish in his personal bogey event.

Another driver on the move was Francois Delecour who was less than a second behind Burns on the stage and now just five seconds behind Juha Kankkunen in their battle for the final two points scoring positions. The Frenchman could find himself out of a drive next year if rumours linking soon-to-be-unemployed SEAT driver Didier Auriol to the second Peugeot prove to be on the mark and therefore he was in a particularly determined mood as he fought to overhaul the man who is in what is almost certainly his last year of full competition after agreeing to take a reduced Subaru schedule next season.

SS16 through Trawscoed proved to be the downfall of both Petter Solberg and Tapio Laukkanen who fell foul of the slippery conditions after showing well earlier in the morning.

Solberg had been third fastest on SS15 moving into twelfth overall on what had been a remarkable comeback from his Friday setback and was on course for another top five time when he ran wide towards the end of the 26 kilometre test and clipped a tree. Damage was confined to the right front corner but the Impreza refused to fire up leaving him out on the penultimate stage.

Laukkanen was also in fine form on SS15 as he matched Gronholm's time exactly but he found himself walking back to Cardiff when he too ran wide and rolled his Focus WRC ending what has been a disappointing event for the ex-British Champion.



Related Pictures

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Marcus Gronholm - Peugeot Esso
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