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Gronholm takes second win of 2003 in NZ.

Gardemeister moved past Alister McRae for fifth place early in the final day, despite feeling that the suspension and the ride height was wrong on his car. The Finn's run through the Maramarua forest stages was without incident.

Auriol started the day with Makinen 31.6 seconds behind him. Despite his best efforts the Finn moved ahead of him on the final stage, when Auriol was struggling with the turbo problem.

Auriol said: ''The first stage this morning was really slippery. There was no grip at all. I think my choice of tyre was wrong, too hard. The biggest problem for me was the turbo this afternoon. I noticed the car was starting to lose power early in the group of four stages, but the problem got worse and worse, by the finish there wasn't much boost at all. The turbo pipe had broken.''

Gardemeister continued: ''I took a small cut in the tyres for the first two stages today, but it wasn't enough - the tyres were wrong. I was pushing hard through those stages, expecting a big fight from both Freddy and Alister [McRae] but Freddy went off and Alister had a problem with his car's differential, so in the end we made it to fifth place okay.''

The Ford Focus RS WRC 03 of Francois Duval and the 2002 specification car of team-mate Mikko Hirvonen both ran without any problems through Sunday's stages. Markko Martin retired from second place with a broken cam belt on SS14 yesterday.

Duval and Hirvonen ended the event in ninth and tenth positions, with the Belgian's placing ensuring that Ford maintained its points-scoring record which means it has taken manufacturer points from the last 18 rallies. Duval stuck with his steady pace, electing not to push the car harder and risk not finishing the event.

Hirvonen took a similarly measured approach, but felt that his car was sliding around too much on the first two stages and decided to make some changes to the transmission settings at service prior to the four stages in Maramarua.

Duval said: ''I'm pleased to have finished this event and gained a lot of experience of the roads. It is also good to get a point for the team. I've enjoyed the rally, the stages are something special - always changing. I've made some changes to my pace notes, so I will be better prepared for when we come here next year.''

Hirvonen noted: ''The car was quite tricky this morning. The surface was difficult and running second on the road didn't help, but I felt we were sliding quite wide in too many corners. The changes the team made at service helped the car, but the stages this afternoon were quite different to the ones this morning.''

Team boss Malcolm Wilson added: ''I'm absolutely delighted with the way the new car has run here. Markko drove tremendously well on a rally where he really doesn't have very much experience. Francois and Mikko did exactly what I asked them to do, they got their cars to the finish in one piece and gained a lot of valuable experience.''



Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Peugeot`s Marcus Gronholm and co-driver Timo Rautiainen celebrate victory on the Rally NZ [2003]
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