5 February 2006
Birthday win for Gronholm in Sweden.
Jimmy Joge was ninth, while Subaru WRT driver, Chris Atkinson was just outside the top ten, followed by SupeRally re-starter, Mikko Hirvonen. His event was compromised after he missed the final two stages on Friday, picking up two 5 minute penalties, if you minus these then the Finn would have scored a comfortable third in the second works BP Ford Focus.
Further down the field amongst the more noticeable finishers, Jan Kopecky secured 13th in his Czech ran Skoda Fabia WRC, while Juho Hanninen took the Group N victory 15th overall, followed by Daniel Sordo, Jukka Ketomaki and Manfred Stohl in 16th, 17th and 18th respectively. Stohl re-started this morning under the SupeRally format after going off the road in SS11. 1984 FIA World Rally champion, Stig Blomqvist also finished, 24th overall in his Subaru Impreza Sti WRX.
Of retirees both Red Bull Skoda drivers failed to make it to the finish, with DTM star Mattias Ekstrom and Andreas Aigner both retiring this morning on the opening loop. The latter was on course to finish fifth and score his first ever WRC points, prior to his off on SS15. Red Devil Atolye Kazaz driver, Kristian Sohlberg also looked set to finish in the points, although he had to retire right at the end of leg two, with engine problems.
As for Subaru WRT number one driver, Petter Solberg he finished the event 21st overall but was later excluded for failing to start SS18 within the allocated time. The Norwegian was dogged by problems throughout and will no doubt be glad to see the back of this event. "The rally has been a complete disaster," he noted. "We only have had two good stages."
In the Junior World Rally Championship category 14 runners were classified at the finish, the honours going to Per-Gunnar Andersson who lead practically throughout the event. P-G beat Renault Clio driver, Patrick Sandell by 53.1 seconds, to give the Suzuki Swift its first Junior win. Fellow Suzuki users, Urmo Aava and Pavel Valousek were third and fourth, while Kalle Pinomaki rounded out the top five. Britain's Guy Wilks finished, albeit just outside the points, in ninth.
The WRC now heads to Mexico in a month's time, for the first long-haul round of the season and also the first gravel event. Rally Mexico is based in Leon and runs from March 2-6.
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