by Rob Wilkins

BP Ford number one driver, Marcus Gronholm is feeling bullish ahead of the new season - and he is confident the Ford Focus WRC car will allow him to take the fight to Citroen's Sebastien Loeb.

Gronholm was the only one that came close to matching Loeb in 2006 and following pre-events test for the Rallye Automobile Monte Carlo and the Uddeholm Swedish Rally, he has revealed that everything went like clockwork for the M-Sport-run operation in their preparations for rounds one and two in the 2007 FIA World Rally Championship.

"We have only just finished the last season and had a small break and then we start again. But that is OK, I am ready to go. We had a Monte test and a Sweden test recently and everything went to plan," he told Radio. "There were no problems at all.

"It is the second year for the car now and it was already very good in the first year, but now it is even better. All of the things with the reliability have been solved, so it looks very promising."

As for the Rallye Monte Carlo itself, despite winning it for the first time last year, the Finn conceded that it is not an event he particularly likes. Indeed if he had one wish it would be for a snowy Monte.

"In Monte I am not confident that I will beat Seb - not confident at all. I know that he is very strong when we go out with slicks in the wet and in slippery conditions, which I don't like so much. But if there is snow we will go out with snow tyres and so then I can match him," he continued.

"I hope there will be snow - then it should be better for me. But I don't think there is a lot of snow there at the moment."

Asked where he hopes to finish at the Principality, he added that second wouldn't be a disaster: "We were a little bit lucky in Monte Carlo [in '06] - it is not really my favourite event and Sebastien is very, very good there. So I am not going to be really disappointed if I am second there, although of course it is never nice to be second. If I can win it will be even better, but what I am really looking forward to are the events after Monte, where I can definitely start to win," he concluded.