11 February 2007
Gronholm takes fifth Swedish win.
Two-time world champion, Marcus Gronholm brought his Ford Focus WRC car home in first place on Sunday to clinch his second successive win in Sweden - and his fifth in total.
Gronholm went into the event as the favourite and while he didn't have it all his own way, in the end he took a convincing victory, 50 seconds or so up on his nearest rival, Sebastien Loeb.
Marcus took the lead on the second loop on Friday, overhauling Petter Solberg in SS5 and eventually ending the day 11.1 seconds up on Loeb, who 'passed' Petter for third in the penultimate test. Saturday looked set to be another all-too-familiar battle between Gronholm and Loeb, and while initially it look likely to be a close run thing, Marcus powered ahead on the middle loop, increasing his advantage more than two-fold after blitzing the opposition in Torntorp 2 and Vargasen 2. The 39-year-old then proceeded to pull further ahead in the afternoon, finishing the day 38.4 seconds in front.
The Ford man could have eased off on Sunday, but in the end he choose not too, winning three more stages, to add to the eight taken in legs 1 and 2 and finally triumphing by around 50-odd seconds. It was his first win of the year - and yet another in Sweden, after also taking the honours in 2006, 2003, 2002 and 2000. The result moves him up to second in the drivers' championship, at this very early stage, 2 points behind Loeb.
Seb for his part began the event in the worst way possible, when he stalled at the start of the Karlstad super special on Thursday night. That blip cost him around 7-8 seconds and immediately put him on the back-foot.
While the Frenchman quickly fought back once the event started 'proper' on Friday, and was up from 20th to fourth by the lunch-time halt on day one, he finally finished the first day 11.1 seconds adrift of the lead and would have been that bit closer but for the super special gaff.
Furthermore while he matched Gronholm on SS9 and SS10 on Saturday, a wrong tyre choice for SS11 and SS12, cost him dear and from then on, he took the decision to drive for second and settle for the eight points.
Mikko Hirvonen meanwhile took the final podium position, 1min 40secs off his Ford team-mate, Gronholm, while Seb was 48 seconds in front in his C4. Mikko lost time on Friday when the power steering on his Focus malfunctioned, dropping him from fourth to tenth. He fought back though on the second loop and finished day one in fifth position.
On Saturday he was engaged in a three-way battle for fourth, which quickly became third following Petter Solberg's exit in SS10. Henning held the position to begin with, before Mikko went in front on SS11, pulling away with four successive times in the top three.
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