3 August 2007
Finland - leg 1: Ford crushes rivals.
Marcus Gronholm has finished day one of the Rally Finland - the ninth round in the 2007 FIA World Rally Championship, on top, as he looks to notch up a record seventh win on his home event.
Gronholm though hasn't had it easy - and while he won eight stages, easily the most of anyone runner, his BP Ford team-mate, Mikko Hirvonen has kept him very honest and as result the double world champion has struggled to pull out a comfortable advantage.
Following the Thursday night super special, which was won by Subaru's Chris Atkinson, it was Ford 'B' team member Jari-Matti Latvala, who took the laurels on the first test today however, beating Hirvonen by 1.6 seconds, while Gronholm and Sebastien Loeb tied for third.
Next up was the 13.72 kilometre Mokkipera test [SS3] and this time it was the turn of Gronholm to set the pace, 2.1 seconds up on Loeb, while Hirvonen was third and Latvala plummeted down the order in his Stobart Ford as a result of a spin, which cost him over 2 minutes.
After that Palsankyla 1 was run and Hirvonen made it four different stage winners from as many tests, 1 second up on Gronholm. As such he moved into the lead overall, admittedly though, only by the narrowest of margins, just 0.1 seconds ahead going into Service B.
On the repeat runs in the middle of the day, Marcus was quickest on all three tests, however he was unable to pull out hardly any advantage on Hirvonen, who tied for the quickest time on SS6 - and was just 0.5 seconds slower in SS5 and 0.4 seconds slower in SS7.
It wasn't until the final three proper tests that Gronholm managed to get a bit of a gap, taking 1.7 seconds from Hirvonen in SS9 and another 1.1 seconds in SS10.
Following the second run through the Killeri super special, Marcus finished the day with a 4.4 second lead - and both he and Mikko have already shown that the new 2007 spec Focus, which is making its competitive debut in Finland, is very, very good.
Away from the battle for the lead, Citroen's Sebastien Loeb had to be content with ending the day third overall. The Frenchman was pushing as hard as he could but was unable to match the pace of the Fords and freely admitted that they were just not close enough.
In the end he finished the day around 20 seconds off his chief championship rival.
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