Marcus Gr?nholm has scored his second home victory on the Rally Finland, the ninth round of this year's FIA World Rally Championship.

The Peugeot driver took over the lead yesterday morning and never surrendered it thereafter, despite challenges from team-mate Harri Rovanper? and Richard Burns. Burns eventually finished runner-up to Gr?nholm after late suspension problems prevented Rovanper? from scoring a one-two for Peugeot.

He claimed fourth, behind Ford's Colin McRae, who was the leading world title contender. McRae's third overall closed the gap between the Scot and world championship leader Tommi M?kinen to six points, while Carlos Sainz also narrowed his deficit to the series top spot by scoring a point in sixth.

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Today's three long stages were again held in dry, sunny conditions, and none of the leading protagonists hit enough trouble to force retirement. But two of the fancied privateer crews - Juuso Pykalisto and Raphael Sperrer - crashed out at the same corner.

At Peugeot Marcus Gr?nholm suffered ATS mousse break-ups in the front tyres of his Peugeot on this morning's long opening stage but otherwise the reigning world champion's 206 performed reliably. Harri Rovanper? was not so fortunate - he lost time when he clipped a rock on the first stage and broke a valve in a tyre. Then on the penultimate stage, he again suffered from an oil leak in a damper and as the problem worsened, he had to ease off considerably to ensure a finish.

Peugeot had told its drivers to take no risks and make sure of a maximum points haul in the manufacturers' series, so Marcus Gr?nholm started today's tests confident that team-mate Harri Rovanper? would pose no serious threat. The reigning world champion duly rattled off the three stages to score his first win since Australia last November. Harri Rovanper? expected to have to settle for second today but damper problems and a broken valve on his tyre eventually dropped him to fourth by the finish.

Marcus Gronholm said: ''There has been a bit more of a fight this year but at the same time, I've never really felt under big pressure. Harri was pushing hard of course, and Richard too, but when Harri had some problems yesterday I became a bit more comfortable. I feel a bit sorry for him today, because he deserved to finish on the podium. I don't think this result really puts me in the fight for the championship but it helps Peugeot a lot and we'll see what happens in New Zealand.''

Harri Rovanpera added: ''I saw the oil coming out of the damper on the stage before the last and I had to back off because if I'd broken it completely, I could have retired. Of course I'm disappointed because I wanted to fight and at least keep second place, but it gives me even more determination for next year.''

Team Peugeot Total Director Corrado Provera concluded: ''We are delighted for Marcus and Timo, and feel very sorry for Harri and Risto (Pietilainen). But our main aim is still the manufacturers' championship and in that we have moved up to third. The improved efficiency and performance here gives us improved optimism for New Zealand next month. In Harri we have discovered a new Finnish diamond after Marcus and it is almost certain that he will be with us again next year, and hopefully for a long time after that.''

Meanwhile at Subaru apart from a vibration on the penultimate stage after he clipped a stone, Richard Burns's Impreza WRC2001 has been reliable today. Petter Solberg's example has been troublefree, while Markko Martin still felt his Subaru was down on power after he'd flattened the exhaust yesterday.

Richard Burns started today aiming to defend third place from Colin McRae, but a fastest time on the day's first stage (and a slow performance from Harri Rovanper?) gave the Englishman a chance of second instead. Rovanper?'s late suspension glitches allowed Burns to claim the runners-up spot on the final stage. Markko Martin chose too hard a tyre compound in the day's first stage and stalled at a hairpin but he did enough to fend off Carlos Sainz and bag fifth. Petter Solberg continued to gain experience and finished eighth, scoring a single manufacturers' point for Subaru.

Richard Burns said: ''It's been a lot better today - I've had a more flowing driving style and it's just clicked a bit more effectively. Our road position yesterday hindered me more than I'd expected but I said before the start I wanted to put in a good drive and get a podium finish, and we've done that. Six points is good but we've still got half of Tommi M?kinen's total, so I'm just taking each event as it comes.''

Markko Martin added: ''I'm happy to finish in the top six but to be honest, it was better during the first day and yesterday morning. Since then and my accident I've been making small mistakes and that's annoyed me. But to come back to the championship after a little break and score points is good.''

Petter Solberg noted: ''This event is so hard to learn but I've been very pleased by my speed in the sections that I've done before. It was going much better today so I'm already confident and looking forward to next year!''

At Ford Francois Delecour was forced to retire on the road section from Jyvaskyla to first service this morning. His Focus WRC reported a lack of fuel pressure, although the car's fuel gauge reported sufficient petrol in the tank. Colin McRae's and Carlos Sainz's cars were reliable throughout today's stages, though.

Colin McRae expected Richard Burns to charge on the day's first stage and when the Englishman took nearly six seconds from the Ford driver, he elected to settle for fourth and championship points. McRae was handed an unexpected bonus on the final stage, though, when Rovanper?'s problems promoted him to third overall. Carlos Sainz was unable to close in on Markko Martin this morning, and the Spaniard had to settle for sixth at the finish. Fran?ois Delecour's day ended before the first stage when his Focus lost fuel pressure less than three kilometres away from first service.

Colin McRae said: ''I only realised I was third when the cameraman asked me about it! We'd actually settled for fourth and some points and that would have been fine, but an extra point and a place on the podium is obviously a nice surprise. The point could come in useful by the end of the season. I always knew Richard was going to go like hell this morning and he certainly did - but then, I had more to lose than he did. The championship is getting interesting but a lot depends on the new Mitsubishi, our car's pace on asphalt and how quick the Citroens go in Sanremo and Corsica.''

Over at Mitsubishi a change of pedal box at last night's final service cured the brake problems that had plagued Freddy Loix throughout yesterday's stages. Toni Gardemeister, meanwhile, had to complete the day's longest stage with an out-of-line right-rear wheel after he hit a rock. He eventually crashed out on the final stage.

Freddy Loix battled with Finn Pasi Hagstrom today, and the pair inched into the top ten thanks to the retirement of Juuso Pykalisto and Alister McRae's puncture. Toni Gardemeister had worked his way into 11th before he rolled out on the final stage.

Freddy Loix said: ''Today was better because at least I could have confidence in the brakes but at the same time it's been a frustrating event for us. We showed on the first day we could have quite a good speed but then the problems took over. I hope we have better luck in New Zealand.''

Toni Gardemeister added: ''I'm really disappointed, but the car went over two or three times and everything was broken. All I can do is regroup and do my best for the team in New Zealand.''

At Hyundai Alister McRae had to stop and change a puncture after he clipped a rock on this morning's first stage. But his Accent WRC2 performed reliably otherwise. Kenneth Eriksson complained of understeer on the same test but suffered no major mechanical dramas.

Alister McRae's first-stage puncture cost the Scot more than three minutes and he dropped outside the top ten as a result. Kenneth Eriksson, meanwhile, concentrated further on gaining extra confidence with the Accent on the high-speed sections. He'd been concerned by a number of fast 'moments' during the opening day.

Alister McRae said: ''The puncture was very frustrating but what can you do? I saw the rock at the last minute and as soon as we hit it I knew the tyre was going to go down. I've been fairly happy with our speed here - we're a lot closer to the pace this year than we were 12 months ago.''

Skoda's Octavia WRCs of Bruno Thiry and Stig Blomqvist were reliable today, but Armin Schwarz's example has suffered from shock absorbers that went soft after 25km.

Armin Schwarz's suspension problems meant he was unable to bring his Octavia any closer to the top ten than 15th. The German had almost fully recovered from his inner ear infection, although he did feel extremely tired after sleeping badly during the last few nights. Bruno Thiry concentrated on making small changes to his pacenotes in preparation for future visits, while Stig Blomqvist won the 'battle of the veterans' by being the only finisher (Markku Alen and Juha Kankkunen both retired).

Armin Schwarz said: ''The suspension getting soft has made things very difficult today, because some of the roads have been used twice and in the ruts it just bounced around.''

Of the other teams Finnish privateer Juuso Pykalisto's promising run ended with an accident on today's first stage, so the top non-works finisher was Sebastian Lindholm (Peugeot). Pasi Hagstrom also scored a top ten finish in his Corolla after fighting past Freddy Loix. In the FIA Super 1600 Cup, Frenchman Sebastien Loeb maintained his unbeaten record in the category by claiming another win in his Citroen Saxo. Italian Andrea Dallavilla was second in a Fiat Punto, with Jussi Valimaki bagging the final podium place in his Peugeot 206.

The Group N Class for more standard cars was turned on its head in SS19, when category leader Jouni Ampuja retired with suspension problems and his nearest challenger, Marko Ipatti crashed out. With fellow Finn Jouko Puhakka damaging his oil tank after hitting a rock, Argentine driver Marcos Ligato came through to score an unexpected win on one of the most specialised rounds. Countryman Gabriel Pozzo was second in his similar Mitsubishi.

Rally Statistics:

Starters: 101 cars (53 Group A + 48 Group N) restarted the rally

Retirements: Delecour (F), Pykalisto (FIN), Gardemeister (FIN) +18 other drivers

Today - Sunday 3 June: Leg 3 started from Jyvaskyla at 07h00 and covered 483.27km, including 96.34km on three special stages.

Stage by stage summary - Leg three:

SS19 Moksi-Leustu (40.84kms):
1. Burns (GB) Subaru 20m 52.2
2. McRae (GB) Ford 20m 57.7
3. Gr?nholm (FIN) Peugeot 21m 01.8

Leaders after SS19:
1. Gr?nholm (FIN) Peugeot 2h 56m 25.8
2. Rovanper? (FIN) Peugeot 2h 56m 48.3
3. Burns (GB) Subaru 2h 56m 54.5

SS20 Talviainen 2 (30.30kms):
1. Rovanpera (FIN) Peugeot 14m 53.6
2. C.McRae (GB) Ford 14m 57.2
3. P.Solberg (N) Subaru 14m 57.6

Leaders after SS20:
1. Gr?nholm (FIN) Peugeot 3h 11m 27.3
2. Rovanper? (FIN) Peugeot 3h 11m 41.9
3. Burns (GB) Subaru 3h 11m 54.2

SS21 Ouninpohja 2 (25.20kms)
1. Burns (GB) Subaru 11m 43.6
2. C.McRae (GB) Ford 11m 44.2
3. Gronholm (FIN) Peugeot 11m 45.5

Leaders in Jyvaskyla after SS21:
1. Gr?nholm (FIN) Peugeot 3h 11m 27.3
2. Burns (GB) Subaru +25.0
3. C.McRae (GB) Ford +32.3
4. Rovanper? (FIN) Peugeot +33.9
5. Martin (EE) Subaru +1m 17.9
6. Sainz (E) Ford +1m 40.5
7. P.Solberg (N) Subaru +2m 39.6
8. Lindholm (FIN) Peugeot +2m 44.6
9. Hagstrom (FIN) Toyota +5m 01.2
10. Loix (B) Mitsubishi +5m 05.4

Group N leaders after SS21:
1. Ligato (RA) Mitsubishi 3h 44m 36.2
2. Pozzo (RA) Mitsubishi +49.4
3. Kuistila (FIN) Mitsubishi +1m 23.6
4. Ketomaki (FIN) Mitsubishi +5m 23.3
5. Laivola (FIN) Mitsubishi +5m 53.1
6. Sanfilippo (FIN) Mitsubishi +7m 20.2

Super 1600 leaders after SS21:
1. Loeb (F) Citroen 3h 49m 19.6
2. Dallavilla (I) FIAT +5m 21.9
3. Valimaki (FIN) Peugeot +7m 53.4
4. Cols (B) Peugeot +9m 44.0
5. Fontana (I) Peugeot +15m 59.1
6. Galanti (PY) Ford +21m 46.8

Rally final statistics:

Event: The rally covered 1677.13km, including 406.38km on 21 special stages (including six run twice). All sections were on gravel roads closed to other traffic.

Starters: 160 cars (78 Group A + 82 Group N) started the rally

Finishers: 79 cars (43 Group A + 36 Group N) finished the rally

Stage winners:
Rovanper? (SS1-11-13-15-16-20)
Gr?nholm (SS2-3-5-6-10-18)
Burns (SS4-7-19-21)
McRae (SS14-17)
Sainz (SS9-12)
Martin (SS8)

Rally leaders:
SS1-SS2 Rovanper?
SS3-SS7 Gr?nholm
SS8-SS9 Burns
SS10-SS21 Gr?nholm

FIA World Championship (provisional standings after 9 of 14 rounds):

FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers:
M?kinen (FIN) 40, McRae (GB) 34, Sainz (E) 27, Rovanper? (FIN) 23, Burns (GB) 21, Gr?nholm (FIN) & Delecour (F) 14, Auriol (F) 10, Solberg (N) & Loix (B) 9, Schwarz (D) 7, R?dstr?m (S) & Panizzi (F) 6, Gardemeister (FIN) 5, Arai (J) 3,Martin (EE) 2, A. McRae (GB) & Hagstrom (FIN) & Bugalski (F) & Pozzo (RA) 1.

FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers:
Mitsubishi 66 & Ford 66, Peugeot 39, Subaru 35, Skoda 15, Hyundai 10.

FIA World Cup for Drivers of Production Cars:
Pozzo (RA) 53, Trelles (ROU) 26, Ligato 22 (RA), Stohl (A) 12, Gillet (CH) & Walfridsson (S) & Da Silva 10, Blomqvist (S) 8, others.

FIA Teams Cup (after 4 of 6 rounds, this event not counting):
Hagstrom (FIN) & Lundgaard (DK) 20, Bakhashab (SA) 13, Papadimitriou (GR) 8, Barratt (GB) 7, Blomqvist (GB) & Al Wahaibi (OM) 6, Kulig (PL) & Heath (GB) 4, Dor (F) 2.

FIA Super 1600 Cup (after 3 of 6 rounds):
Loeb (F) 30, Dallavilla (I) 14, Stenshorne (N) 7, Basso (I) & Fontana (I) 6, Valimaki (FIN) 4, Robert (F) & Cols (B) 3, Magaud (F) 2, Chemin (I) & Ceccato (I) & Galanti (PY) 1.

Next Event: September 20th to the 23rd 2001: Propecia Rally New Zealand, Auckland, New Zealand.