5 August 2007
Finland - leg 3: Gronholm sets new WRC record.
Marcus Gronholm came through to win the Rally Finland, his home event, on Sunday, in the process re-writing the record books, as no driver has ever won a WRC event on seven occasions - until now.
Gronholm took the lead from his BP Ford team-mate, Mikko Hirvonen on the second loop on day one and although he was unable to pull out much of a gap on Friday, he still ended the first day on top - 4.4 seconds up, despite having to run first on the road, something he reckoned was a disadvantage.
During the second leg, Gronholm managed to start to ease away - and although Mikko pushed him hard and really made him work for it, in the end Marcus finished the day with a 20-odd second cushion and well placed for the short final leg.
On Sunday Gronholm continued to set the standard winning all three tests and eventually taking the victory, his fourth of the season, by 24.2 seconds. The result increases his lead in the drivers' championship over Sebastien Loeb to 13 points, with seven rounds still to go.
Hirvonen for his part also enjoyed a very good event and while he only won 4 stages, compared to the 17 took by Gronholm, that doesn't tell the whole story. Indeed the two were very evenly matched throughout the three-day event, which took place in dry and sunny conditions - and it was best illustrated in SS6 on Friday, in the 13.72 kilometre-run through Mokkipera 2, when they tied for the quickest time.
Ford's 1-2 result meanwhile was also very good news for the M-Sport-run outfit in terms of the manufacturers' championship, as they outscored Citroen by 12 points, to extend their lead to 40 points.
The fact this was all achieved with the new 2007 spec car, which was making its competitive debut this weekend, was just the icing on the cake for team boss, Malcolm Wilson and the 'Blue Oval' in general.
Loeb for his part never looked likely to challenge the Fords and in the end he finished over a minute off Gronholm – only beating the Finn on the first test on Saturday. Other than that the Frenchman was always pretty much third best and unsurprisingly he was none to happy at the finish.
He will now be hoping that his Citroen C4 WRC will be more competitive on the next event, when the WRC heads to Germany, an event he has dominated since it joined the WRC schedule in 2002.
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