BP Ford's number one driver, Marcus Gronholm has ended the second leg of the Rally of Turkey, the thirteenth round in the 2006 FIA World Rally Championship, comfortably in front.
Gronholm began the day under a bit of pressure from his nearest rival, Petter Solberg and he was unable to match the Norwegian in the first test. As a result his lead was cut from 26.1 seconds overnight to 23.9 going into SS11. Marcus though soon bounced back and was 13.5 seconds faster than 'Hollywood' in SS12, to end the first-loop having increased his advantage to 37.4 seconds.
Marcus was again quickest on the second loop, beating Petter on the two repeat runs through Kemer and Silyon and as such he built a bigger cushion, to arrive in service F, 43.4 seconds in front.
The final loop was somewhat tougher though and once again the weather played a role. Having been dry and sunny throughout the four previous tests, the 16 kilometre Chimera section [SS14], already one of the hardest of the rally, was made even more difficult by the return of the rain and a freak hailstorm which covered the last three kilometres in a blanket of ice and slush. Gronholm thus eased off, conceding 9.2 seconds to Solberg.
The penultimate test of the day though proved to be the turning point of the whole event, when Petter went off 4 kilometres from the start, when he hit a rock and went off the road. The Norwegian was unable to rejoin and as such Gronholm paced himself through the 29.28 kilometre stage, before heading to the Akdeniz University super special, which like on Friday brought the leg to an end. The Finn now goes into the final day under no pressure whatsoever and with a 2 minute lead, will just pace himself to the finish and his fifth victory of the year.
Mikko Hirvonen meanwhile is now second in the sister BP-backed Ford Focus, the Finn having pulled further and further away from Henning Solberg during the day, with a number of good stage times, including a win in SS13 and SS16. From being only 0.7 seconds in front of the OMV Peugeot driver, he now lies 40 seconds in front and like his team-mate, will just be able to take it easy on Sunday during the final three tests.
Henning for his part will now be eager to try and secure his very first podium finish in the WRC. He had a somewhat mixed day though and reckoned he was lucky to have got through SS11 after hitting a big rock 10 kilometres before the end. He also had a throttle problem in the final loop.
Atkinson had a pretty uneventful day and while he dropped down to eighth initially, he put in a storming time on SS14, when he was third fastest through the 16.91 Chimera test, to haul himself up to fifth. Chris finished the day 18.4 seconds off third.
Further-down the order, Kosti Katajamaki remains on course to score good points in his Stobart VK Ford Focus. The Finn has had a few issues during the day, including a handbrake problem on SS12, which caused him to stall halfway through, but he has kept on it and was second quickest on SS15.