6 August 2005
Gronholm lines up first win of year.
Peugeot number one driver, Marcus Gronholm has dominated the second leg of the Rally Finland Saturday, winning six of the days' eight stages.
The Finn now lies over 1 minute up on his nearest rival, Sebastien Loeb, who lost around 30 seconds in the last stage after hitting a rock and puncturing a front left tyre. Up to that point Gronholm had gradually built up a solid 30 second lead, only to be gifted with an additional half a minute cushion in the final test. The double world champion now looks poised to take his first win of the season and his fifth in Finland in six years, after also triumphing in 2004, 2002, 2001, 2000.
Loeb however will probably be content now just to get to the finish and with a 40-odd second advantage back to third, he will probably cruise through the final day in his Citroen to take second and the eight championship points that come with it, something that will do his title hopes no harm whatsoever.
Markko Martin holds the final podium place in the second 307 - the Estonian is enjoying this event and feels much happier at the wheel of his Peugeot after the team revised the suspension settings for this round.
Fourth-place driver, Petter Solberg lost time on SS14, when the brake line split on his Impreza, but he recovered to hold off the charging Mikko Hirvonen, in the lead Ford Focus. Both Solberg and Hirvonen benefited from Toni Gardemeister's tyre problems in SS16, and although Gardemeister was quickest in the last test today, he arrived at the end of leg 2 service seventh, 3.8 seconds behind Mitsubishi ace, Harri Rovanpera, who like Solberg and Hirvonen moved up a place following Gardemeister's misfortune. Gardemeister had been a solid fourth prior to his puncture in the penultimate test.
Citroen driver, Francois Duval remains on course to scoop the final point in eighth, the Belgian again enjoying a consistent day with few issues. Henning Solberg is ninth, the top privateer, while Skoda duo, Janne Tuohino and Armin Schwarz are tenth and eleventh respectively.
Of the rest, 'works' drivers, Gigi Galli and Chris Atkinson both took advantage of the SupeRally format this morning to re-start after retiring in leg 1.
Galli was second quickest through SS11 in his Mitsubishi, before going off the road in the next test and crashing into a tree. He has now retired for good. Atkinson also retired again, going off the road in SS16, however the damage to his Impreza was slight and it is thought he will re-start - again - tomorrow.
Jani Paasonen did not re-start, as Skoda felt that the penalties he had incurred after missing much of leg 1 meant it would have been near impossible to get a good result. Peugeot test driver, Sebastian Lindholm was also another that didn't start leg 2. He finished leg 1 in 13th, but was withdrawn this morning after his co-driver, Tomi Tuominen was advised by doctors not to continue after being one of several co-drivers to suffer a back injury during a vicious jump on the Vellipohja stage [SS5] yesterday.
In the Junior WRC, Kris Meeke lost any chance of taking the win after encountering difficulties in SS11. That promoted his Citroen C2 team-mate, Daniel Sordo into the top spot, a position he has held ever since, now over 2 minutes up on his nearest rival, Urmo Aava.
Guy Wilks completes the provisional 'junior' podium in the Suzuki Swift, while Meeke is now down in eighth.
The final leg Sunday is the shortest of the three. It comprises just two identical loops of two stages west of Jyvaskyla, covering 66.56km but with no opportunity for service in between. Competitors leave the town at 09.00 before returning for the finish ceremony at 14.34.
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