5 August 2007
Finland - leg 3: Gronholm sets new WRC record.
Chris Atkinson brought his Subaru home in fourth place overall after a very solid drive. Granted in the end he was over 3 minutes off the winner – and 2 minutes off Loeb, but he also finished comfortably ahead of Henning Solberg, who was fifth for the Stobart team.
In total he set 20 top five stage times, the highlight a third best time on Saturday, on the first run through the 33.01 kilometre Ouninpohja test, one of the most famous and fastest in the WRC.
Henning was content with fifth place, especially as he felt a bit rusty to begin with following the long summer break. Unlike the likes of Gronholm and Loeb, he didn't get the chance to test that much in June and July and found it took him a while to get in the swing of things.
Although he had a few minor problems during the event, including a clutch issue in SS7, he found more and more speed as the event progressed and set eight top five times in the final nine stages, including a third best time in SS18.
Further down the order, Xavier Pons was sixth on his debut with the Subaru World Rally Team and as he got more and more confidence in the Impreza so his times improved, culminating with a fourth best stage time on SS23, the final test.
Suzuki's JRC runner, Urmo Aava took seventh position in his privately entered Mitsubishi Lancer WRC. It was the first time he has scored 'senior' WRC points and considering this was only his second outing with the car in the WRC, it was all the more impressive that he brought it home and scored two points.
Mads Ostberg took the final WRC points in eighth in his Adapta-run Subaru Impreza WRC and despite big problems in the final test, when he had only front-wheel drive and lost 30 odd seconds, he managed to hold off Britain's Guy Wilks, who was ninth, just 7.5 seconds behind.
Wilks enjoyed a strong event and would almost certainly have got his first point of the season with his Ramsport-run Focus, if it wasn't for the fact he suffered a heavy landing in SS16 on Saturday and then lost all the hydraulics. As a result of that he slipped back on the final loop and he also injured his back and was in considerable pain for a bit.
Stobart third driver, Matthew Wilson completed the top ten, 1min 30secs off Wilks, while Munchi's Ford team leader, Luis-Perez Companc was eleventh followed by Andreas Mikkelsen, Kaj Kuistila and his team-mate, Federico Villagra. Despite a 'moment' in the final test, Villagra made it to the end and picked up 2 manufacturers' points, which combined with Companc's three, increased the team's tally to six.
Of the others Patrik Flodin took the Group N win in his Impreza, also 15th overall, while BP Ford third driver, Khalid Al Qassimi brought his Focus home one spot behind on his first outing with the team.
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