12 February 2005
Solberg and Gronholm head-to-head.
Subaru's Petter Solberg will go into the final leg of the Uddeholm Swedish Rally tomorrow [Sunday], with a 12.6 second advantage over Marcus Gronholm, who lies second for Peugeot.
The two Nordic drivers have been battling for the lead all day, with Solberg taking first blood this morning, before Gronholm battled back in SS10 and SS11, to go in front by 0.1 seconds.
'Hollywood' though wasn't giving up, and he stormed through the final two tests - SS13 and SS14, winning both, to put himself at the top of the leaderboard.
The battle though looks far from decided and could yet go either way...
"We've had a good fight with the other guys, trading times through the stages, but now I'm in a good position and I'm going to do all I can tomorrow to win," pledged Solberg. "Of course, there's still a long way to go and Marcus and Seb are tough competitors, but I have to admit it would be a dream result for me to win here in Sweden."
Gronholm though is just as determined: "I've enjoyed myself a lot and I hope all the spectators have as well. I think tomorrow will be just as exciting and I'm really looking forward to another big battle. Everything is too close to predict!"
Citroen #1 driver, Sebastien Loeb meanwhile remains in third despite going into a ditch on the opening stage and compounding a difficult morning by damaging the rear of his car after missing a braking point and then hitting a stone. Although he came back somewhat this afternoon, winning SS12, the Frenchman has slipped out of contention for the top prize, now 34.3 seconds off the battle between Gronholm and Solberg.
Markko Martin has moved up to fourth, in the second Peugeot 307, he is over a minute behind Loeb, while Ford duo, Toni Gardemeister and Henning Solberg, are fifth and sixth respectively.
The third works Focus, driven by Roman Kresta, is 12th.
"I've pushed hard all day and apart from the spin this morning, I've had no problems," stated Gardemeister. "But I don't understand why I'm faster on the first pass through a stage than I am on the second run. I seem to get worse when it should be the other way round. The time gaps are small behind us so it will be an interesting day tomorrow to try to hold off those trying to catch us."
Mitsubishi duo, Harri Rovanpera and Gigi Galli complete the provisional points' scorers in seventh and eighth, Galli having dropped down from fourth after gearshift problems and a broken front left drive-shaft in SS13, which cost him 1min 40secs in the following two tests.
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