by Rob Wilkins

Marcus Gronholm's co-driver, Timo Rautiainen has said that they are looking forward to the new season and that they are hopeful they will be able to build on their successes from '06.

Speaking to Radio, Timo added that winning the Rally GB was the perfect way for them and BP Ford to conclude the 2006 FIA World Rally Championship. He also noted that it sets them up nicely for January's Rallye Monte Carlo, which, as usual will kick off the new season next month, running from January 18-21.

"Our GB win is a good end. We had two wins at the end of the year, like we had two wins at the beginning of the year. So it makes us feel good and especially because we could clinch the [manufacturers'] title for Ford in New Zealand and here we could bring them the long sought after win on Rally GB," he noted. "It is a top way to finish off the season.

"We are really looking forward to 2007 now. It is not long [until the new season begins]. We have already started testing. We will then spend Christmas and New Year at home - that is good. I am looking forward to the new season and I really hope that we can stop that French guy!"

Asked about the Rally GB more specifically and if it was as easy a win as it appeared, Timo said that was far, far from the case: "No, it was not at all easy [to win in GB]. OK, Mikko [Hirvonen] couldn't continue after three stages and that made our job a little bit easier of course, because we knew we were going to have a big fight with him. On the other hand though, the surfaces of the road were so bad we really had to keep focused all of the time.

"We had to fight a bit with Petter [Solberg] and also Manfred [Stohl] on some stages too. It was not at all easy then, although admittedly on the final day we could take it safe and control our pace."

As for Gronholm's mistake in Australia, which may have cost the Finn his third title, assuming Sebastien Loeb couldn't have come back for GB, Rautiainen noted that the error 'down under' isn't something that will haunt them.

"I don't think Marcus is worried about that anymore. If we had won in Australia and if he had come to Rally GB with three wins, then I am sure Sebastien would have been here driving and doing his best to score some points to prevent us taking the title. But Sebastien deserved the title. He has had a marvellous year and could have done even better [without his injury]. We are not disappointed," he concluded.