Rally reactions: Rally Finland - Leg 3.

Marcus Gronholm [BP Ford WRT]:

"When I started driving at 19 I never thought I could win Rally Finland on seven occasions. Mikko pushed me incredibly hard all weekend and there was never an opportunity to relax. One small error on my part and he would have been passed me. I'm happy that he helped my championship challenge by finishing in front of Loeb. This result is great for both the drivers' and the manufacturers' championships. It was important for the title for me to score 10 points here.

Sebastien Loeb (FRA), Citroen Total WRT C4 WRC. Rally Finland, 2nd-5th August 2007.
Sebastien Loeb (FRA), Citroen Total WRT C4 WRC. Rally Finland, 2nd-5th…

Marcus Gronholm [BP Ford WRT]:

"When I started driving at 19 I never thought I could win Rally Finland on seven occasions. Mikko pushed me incredibly hard all weekend and there was never an opportunity to relax. One small error on my part and he would have been passed me. I'm happy that he helped my championship challenge by finishing in front of Loeb. This result is great for both the drivers' and the manufacturers' championships. It was important for the title for me to score 10 points here.

"We've made a step forward with the new car, which was reliable all weekend and never missed a beat. The top speed has increased and in Finland, which is the fastest in the championship, that made a difference. We've been airborne and landed in places that we've never been before!"

Mikko Hirvonen [BP Ford WRT]:

"I tried to push Marcus as hard as I could and it was a great duel. It's a big step up mentally for me to be up there matching Marcus. I knew I could be fast here but the fact I was able to maintain that pace throughout the weekend was really satisfying. I loved every minute of it and it was a fantastic event. They are scary due to the speed, but Finland's stages are the best in the world. I've never driven this fast anywhere before.

"The new Focus RS was great on these fast roads and it's a pleasure to have a machine like that to drive. The handling is easier and the car felt lighter in places. We've made a bigger step forward on gravel than I thought."

Sebastien Loeb [Citroen Total WRT]:

"I pushed very hard on Friday, as well as during the early part of the second leg, yet the gap continued to widen. Although I felt fully confident in my Citroen C4 WRC on day 1, that was less the case afterwards but perhaps that impression was also due to the fact that I didn't want to make any mistakes and that I didn't have an entirely free hand. The weekend enabled us and the technical team to see how difficult it is in Finland to carry over for the event everything you learn in testing, where repeatedly using the same stretch of road cancels out the sensation of 'discovering' the stages one at a time during the rally. As far as the Drivers' championship goes, coming third isn't really what I was hoping for, but I will try to make the most of the coming asphalt rounds to turn the tables on my rivals."

Chris Atkinson [Subaru WRT]:

"We just tried to keep the pace of the car right through the weekend. To be able to do those times for the first day and a half was great, and let's hope we can continue it for the rest of the year. The car is performing well on tarmac at the moment, so we're confident we can continue this pace in Germany. I'm pleased with the way we have gone this weekend, and think it is encouraging for the team."

Henning Solberg [Stobart M-Sport Ford WRT]:

"It has been a good rally and fantastic to score good driver points and move up some places in the championship. We didn't start off very fast but built up the speed over the weekend. This was the plan as we hadn't driven the car for two months and it is very easy to make a mistake here on the fast roads. Saturday was my best day as the car felt good and I had the confidence to push on, the feeling was fantastic and I was able to set some fast times consistently and comfortably. This rally has helped my feeling with the car for New Zealand and I know I will be able to push hard. My car was great here and worked well, we had no major problems at all."

Xavier Pons [Subaru WRT]:

"It feels great to have completed my first rally with the Subaru World Rally Team, and I am very happy. I have a good working relationship with Xavier Amigo which is getting stronger the more we drive the car, and I am fitting in to the team well. Sixth place is very encouraging, and with the kilometres we have covered in the last three legs here I am feeling confident for Germany. Apart from SS8 when we ran slightly off the road and damaged the spoiler, it has been a good weekend for me with no real problems."

Urmo Aava [Mitsubishi Lancer WRC]:

"The win on the Otepaa Ralli [in Estonia recently] was the perfect preparation for this. The car has been very good for us on this rally, we've had no problems. The only small thing we have problem with here has been the pace notes. In some stages, they have been very good, but in some stages we have really struggled with them. I am very happy with the result, though."

[Speaking after SS23] "It is a very good result for us and I would have never believed I could get as high as seventh. I have really enjoyed my time in a WRC car and we now go to Germany and back to the Super 1600."

Mads Ostberg [Adapta Subaru Impreza WRC]:

[Speaking after SS23] "I have only front wheel drive for the last stage. 300bhp going through the front wheels is not my idea of fun. This rally really has been a pain for us but we have finished and held our position which is a great result for us."

[Speaking after SS21] "I have a small gap and I think I will be fine. If I find my rhythm on the next I will try to pull more time out over Guy (Wilks)."

Guy Wilks [Ramsport Ford Focus WRC]:

[Speaking after SS23] "There are some nasty tight corners in there which demand a lot from the car. We are happy to finish - for us it's been a really difficult event."

[Speaking after SS22] "That was very good for us in there. The surface was very loose and slippery under braking with not much cleaning effect from the cars in front. We came here with no high hopes and have had lots of disappointment but we are getting to the finish."

[Speaking after SS21] "We are going to try and push a bit to make up some time but it's a tall order and now that Jan has gone off in there we have backed off a bit."

Matthew Wilson [Stobart M-Sport Ford WRT]:

"It's brilliant to finish inside the top-ten in this tough and specialised event. Friday and Sunday were pretty good days and it was important to finish on a high with a fourth fastest time on one of the final stages. The stage started off well and everything felt good so we kept pushing. The cars are made to be driven hard and react better when you do so. It just shows that I can put in a good time when needed and do it comfortably; now I need to get to the point where I can do this on all the stages. I made some small mistakes on Saturday and it was a difficult day as we were running at the front of the field and had to cope with the loose gravel on the stages. Things are feeling much better now with the car and my pace-notes and I'm really looking forward to the next gravel event in New Zealand."

Luis Perez Companc [Munchi's Ford WRT]:

"It has been a fantastic rally for me and the team and for both cars to score points on our first visit to Finland is more than we could have wished for. I have enjoyed this rally so much, the stages have been so thrilling and we have not put a mark on the car. Now we have much more experience of the fast gravel roads and I am sure this will help when we go to New Zealand where the roads are similar. My feeling with the car and confidence has improved so much during this rally. Its been a fantastic job by Federico as well and his performance has been stunning.

"The rally started well for me and I was having so much fun on the Friday stages. The car felt fantastic and I was enjoying the fast stages. On Saturday I found things harder as we were running close to the front and there was a lot of loose gravel on the top of the roads making things very tricky and the car was sliding more than normal. Then also we had a small problem with the gear change and had to use the manual system which caused us to drop some more seconds."

Andreas Mikkelsen [Ramsport Ford Focus WRC]:

[Speaking after SS22] "This rally has been a good experience for us. We have learned a lot about our pace notes. We have been doing the Irish championship which has some fast roads but these are faster!"

[Speaking after SS21] "It was a bit easier not being first on the road. We are playing it safe and just getting to the finish. We are here to learn and that is our main focus on the rally."

Federico Villagra [Munchi's Ford WRT]:

"What a result we have had today, two cars scoring manufacturer points is absolutely amazing. But we nearly didn't make it back to the finish. We had a very scary moment on the last stage and slid wide into the side of the road and through some grass; we were so lucky to not have any damage. The team never thought that it would be possible to come to Finland for our first time and both cars to score points; we could not have dreamt of this before the rally.

"My first day was good, really enjoyable and I learnt a lot about the speed and the lines we needed to take over the jumps. It was a good day and we only made one mistake, sliding wide, but didn't lose much time or do any damage. I found it difficult with my pacenotes on the first pass of the wide stages on Saturday and things just weren't working well. I was finding it hard to concentrate on my driving while still thinking about the pacenotes. But on the second pass it went much better and I was quite happy at the end of the day."

Khalid Al Qassimi [BP Ford WRT]:

"It was everything I thought it would be. It was hard work but enjoyable. I came to Finland to learn and get a good feeling with the car. Everything in Finland is so special and I would love to see a rally like this in Abu Dhabi. I'm now looking forward to the next event, so that we can continue our learning experience and fly the UAE flag once more."

Notable retirements:

Jari-Matti Latvala [Stobart M-Sport Ford WRT]: [retired from event after SS7 - lost a rear wheel]

"What can I say, it hasn't been my day. The morning was good though and the mid afternoon stages were going ok. We were coming around a long, long left-hand corner and in the middle of the road I hit a small stone which hit the sump and unsettled the car and we ended up with the rear of the car in the ditch and then hit a bank which broke the rear wheel. It's been a massive high from leading this morning and also a big low after retiring from the first day on my home event. I'm totally disappointed with my accident. I can't believe it's happened after such a good start to the rally."

[Speaking after SS4] "Half way through the second stage [of the day - SS3] some trim fell from the top of my door and in pulling it down I lost some concentration with my feet on the pedals. Braking for a junction I was too late and I slid off. I had to get the spectators to help me get the car going again."

Manfred Stohl [OMV Kronos Citroen WRT]: [retired from event in SS13 - went off the road]

"About two or three kilometres after the start [of SS13] we came over a crest at very high speed. Unfortunately we then got too far to the left and two tyres got caught in the ditch. From then on everything went very fast and we overturned - but I coludn't say how often.

"One is disappointed after a drop-out, of course - especially since I would have loved to tackle the 33 kilometres long special stage Ouninpohja. But I think we have proven that we are competitive. The car is good to handle and the engine power is okay, too, once again. That makes us confident."

Juho Hanninen [Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05]: [retired from event after SS14 - engine]

"Car is very sick. There was a small engine fire which we put out but without a major service there is not much we can do. We are now running on three cylinders."

Daniel Sordo [Citroen Total WRT]: [retired from event in SS15 - mechanical]

"Up until SS15, everything was going according to the plan established before the start. We didn't take any risks but we still drove at a quick pace and I was able to continue my apprenticeship of this event at the wheel of a WRC car. I'm still not consistent enough but, globally, I felt I was making good progress. I was increasingly at ease at the wheel of the C4 and that's a positive pointer for the gravel events to come."

[Speaking on Saturday] "We set off this morning with our objective clear in our minds: reach the finish and learn as much as possible. It's for that reason that I didn't take any risks on Kaipolanuori (SS12), which was new to me, and even fewer on Ouninpohja (SS14) which is where I went off last year! Up until the moment we were halted in our tracks by a mechanical problem on SS15, I felt we were making good progress and my grasp of the stages was improving all the time. My retirement is a shame for Citro?n, and also for us because, once again, I will not be able to do a complete Rally Finland."

Petter Solberg [Subaru WRT]: [retired from event after SS15 - handling problems]

"If you look at the big picture then withdrawing from the rally was really the only option we had. We still had nearly 100km left to run after SS15 and the car really wasn't working at speed. If it helps us get to the bottom of why my car wasn't working properly, then it will have been worth doing. I'm very sorry to my supporters who were on the stages waiting. But trust me; it wouldn't have been much fun to watch today."

[Speaking after SS15] "Nothing is better. The car is not driveable. I feel so bad to complain but I can only say the truth."

[Speaking in service F] "We set off optimistically this morning but unfortunately I am experiencing the same sort of feelings in the car that I had early in leg one. We will make changes in Service F and I hope we can make the car better like we managed to do yesterday. We will try our hardest and just see."

[Speaking after SS14] "Same problems as before which are now getting bigger. I am finding it really hard to drive the car. Nothing seems to work for me in there. I was so looking forward to this rally but have had no enjoyment so far."

Jan Kopecky [Czech RT Skoda Fabia WRC]: [retired from event in SS21 - went off the road]

"We started the Sunday leg with intention to attack. Rally is very unpredictable though and in the hard Rally Finland any crew in the top eight point receiving places could encounter a problem. This is why we wanted to come as close as possible to the eight place. Our optimism was supported by yesterday's times, where we were able to run times among the best. On one of the horizons in the beginning of the SS21, we had an error in the track breakdown. In the introductory rides we did not expect that we could jump on this horizon. We came into a right handed turn over the track and I did not have control over the car. I instantly reacted, but we nonetheless fell into a deep ditch and hit a stack of logs with our car's front end. I regret the withdrawal especially for all the members of the Czech Rally Team Kopeck?, who in the preparation for the race, as well as in the service zones of Rally Finland, turned in a great performance."

Team principals:

Malcolm Wilson [BP Ford WRT - team director]:

"I have two diamonds in the team. Both drove fantastically and made no mistakes. For them to create that time margin over Loeb was superb. We have a great package and the new car was faultless. It is one of the best one-two finishes we've had and to achieve that on the fastest rally in the championship is the icing on the cake. There was huge pressure on Marcus but he drove perfectly and Mikko also did an incredible job."

Jost Capito [Ford Team RS director]:

"To take a one-two finish is the perfect start for the new Focus RS WRC. All the team's hard work in developing the car paid off on its first event and this result has given us huge confidence for the rest of the season."

Guy Frequelin [Citroen Total WRT - team principal]:

"Every year, the Rally Finland stands out as one of the season's big challenges. For a start, it takes place in the back yard of our main rivals who have used these roads since they were old enough to drive - and sometimes even before! In addition to their knowledge of the actual stages, they have a special grasp of the lie of the land which they acquire progressively over the years. On top of that, Finland is the fastest round of the championship and its specific stages include so many potential pitfalls. All these factors combine to make this event a very special challenge which we didn't entirely succeed in rising to this time round."

"More than anywhere else, to succeed here you need to master every single parameter. The slightest straying off line or the tiniest drop in confidence in your car can allow big gaps to open up, as we saw with S?bastien on Days 1 and 2."

"Dani put in a first class run and didn't deserve to retire. He found the right pace and was up amongst the top-five, something which is never easy in Finland. His retirement also means he wasn't able to contest all the stages, not to mention the Manufacturers' points we dropped which makes our situation in the championship even more complex. Seb and Daniel nonetheless limited the damage in the Drivers' standings by finishing third. This result, which wasn't what we were hoping for, shows that we haven't yet succeeded in unlocking the full potential of the C4 which is a new car. It is already more competitive than the Xsara but we now need to be using all its potential. We must try to learn the lessons of what didn't function here to take us forward. I am convinced we have both the resources and the will to do that. Everyone in the team is now looking ahead to Germany where we will be out to do everything in our power to reverse the trend."

Richard Taylor [Subaru WRT - managing director]:

"Chris has done a superb job for the team today, and his fourth place is well deserved. His objective for the leg was to defend his position and get the car to the finish and he did exactly what was required. Chris can be very happy with his performance in Finland; he has driven consistently, set a fastest time and hasn't put a foot wrong all weekend. Xevi should also be encouraged by what he has achieved. Before this rally he had tested the car on gravel for only two days, so sixth overall is a very good result and a strong indication of his potential. Thanks to 19-year-old Mads Ostberg there were three Subaru Imprezas in the top eight, and I'd like to congratulate him for this achievement and on scoring his first World Rally Championship points."

Malcolm Wilson [Stobart M-Sport Ford WRT - team boss]:

"I am really pleased with Matthew's result, he has shown great composure to get to the end of this difficult rally without making any stupid mistakes. He also showed a great turn of speed on one of the final stages and his confidence with the car is increasing with each event. Henning has continued to make great progress and he drove a very sensible and controlled rally. He punched in some impressive times and didn't put a foot wrong all weekend. It was hugely encouraging to see Jari-Matti leading on the first day but I was disappointed with his mistake; he just needs to concentrate and focus for the next rally."

Marc van Dalen [OMV Kronos Citroen - team principal]:

[Speaking on Saturday] "No one is happy about a damaged car. But I am nevertheless glad that Manfred is now satisfied with the Xasra WRC. I am convinced that we will cause some surprise at the next rallies, especially on tarmac."

Josef Kopecky [Czech Rally Team-Kopecky]:

"After an unlucky Friday's leg we understandably felt joy from our excellent times yesterday. In Sunday's leg we decided to attack, because Jan and Filip showed us a truly fantastic run on Saturday. This time our plan to risk did not work and we can evaluate only Saturday's leg as a success. Unfortunately our outing in Rally Finland was quite notably influenced by Friday's tyre defects, which caused Jan and Filip to have to fight their way from the back and drive on the edge of risk."

Matthieu Bonardel [BFGoodrich - rally manager]:

"For BFGoodrich, it was a gradual return to the competitive arena after the summer break since it turned out to be a fairly straightforward weekend for us. We didn't record any punctures and there was very little wear on these high-speed stages. Our tyres were very competitive and gave the drivers enough grip to keep up a very fast pace. Our partners used the full spectrum of tyres we had here in Finland, from the extra-soft compound for SS1 all the way through to the medium compound. That said, none of our drivers took any gambles regarding tyre choices which were globally the same each time within each team. The holidays will be well and truly behind us, however, when we move on to Germany, which can be something of a lottery, in a fortnight's time."

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