BP Ford team leader, Marcus Gronholm managed to get the better of team-mate, Mikko Hirvonen on day two of the Rally Finland, stretching his advantage almost five-fold.

Gronholm began the second leg, 4.4 seconds up on Hirvonen, after having struggled being first on the road on Friday. However while he was only second quickest in SS12, that opened the leg, he began to ease ahead in SS13 and then took 4.8 seconds out of his young rival on SS14, the first run through the 33.01 kilometre Ouninpohja test, one of the most famous and fastest in the WRC.

From then Marcus was on a roll, taking a further 2.4 seconds in SS15 and then another 3 seconds on the repeat run through Ouninpohja, SS16.

Following the RSZ - remote service zone, drivers' headed to the final loop of the day and Gronholm continued to press on, adding another 4 seconds to his lead in SS17 and another 1 in SS18. He then eased off slightly in SS19 and SS20, the final two of the day, which were won by Hirvonen.

However with Mikko only taking 0.6 seconds back in Ehikki 2 and 0.5 seconds in Surkee, Marcus ended the day with a nice 20.4 second lead and very well placed to take the win on Sunday.

If Gronholm does take the victory tomorrow - and that now looks likely, he will further consolidate his 9 point lead in the drivers' championship and set a new WRC record, as he will have won the Rally Finland seven times, no other driver has ever managed to win a single event that many times.

Sebastien Loeb meanwhile had to be content with third position - and in all probability now the final place on the rostrum.

Like on Friday the Frenchman was unable to match the pace of the Fords and while he won the first test that was the only time he beat Gronholm and Hirvonen.

Indeed he slipped further and further back as the day went on in his Citroen C4 WRC, no doubt aware that there was no point pushing too hard, when he had no chance of getting anywhere near the top two. He ended the day a minute off the lead.

Subaru's Chris Atkinson is next up, fourth overall - 1 minute 40 seconds off Seb and 1 minute 15 seconds or so up on Stobart Ford's Henning Solberg.

The Aussie set some good times throughout the day, the highlight a third best time in SS14, the first run through Ouninpohja. Although he eased off a bit in the afternoon as he was too far behind Seb to challenge him and too far up on Henning for the Norwegian to trouble him, he still set top five stage times in every single test.

Further down the order, Xavier Pons is on course for sixth place and three points on his first outing with Subaru. The Spaniard has got more and more use to the Impreza WRC as the event has gone on and his times have reflected this. Today he set top ten times in every single stage bar one.

Suzuki's Junior Rally Championship runner, Urmo Aava ended the day seventh in his privately entered Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05. The Estonian looks set for a great result, particularly when you consider this is only his second outing in the WRC with it.

Mads Ostberg is on course for the final point, 55 seconds up on Britain's Guy Wilks, who slipped back on the final loop after losing all the hydraulics following a heavy landing in SS16. Guy also injured his back in Ouninpohja and was in considerable pain for a while.

Of the rest, Skoda privateer, Jan Kopecky finished the day tenth, 40 seconds or so up on Stobart Ford third driver, Matthew Wilson, while Andreas Mikkelsen is 12th, Luis-Perez Companc 13th and Kaj Kuistila 14th.

Federico Villagra completes the top 15th, currently on course to pick up two manufacturers' points for the Munchi's outfit.

A number of works drivers' had problems on day two - most noticeably Manfred Stohl, Dani Sordo and Petter Solberg, all three joining Stobart Ford's Jari-Matti Latvala on the sidleines.

Stohl was the first out, rolling his Kronos-run Citroen Xsara WRC in SS13. He is now very unlikely to rejoin the action on Sunday under the SupeRally as his car was quite badly damaged.

Sordo stopped in SS15 due to a problem with the engine and the team has since said he will not re-start.

'Hollywood' pulled out following SS15 due to severe handling problems, similar to what he experienced in the first loop on Friday. He will not re-start either.

In the FIA Junior Rally Championship category it is all change at the very top in comparison to how things ended on Friday, after Citroen's Martin Prokop went off the road in SS14.

Prokop had been leading Patrik Sandell's Renault Clio R3 by nearly 50 seconds prior to his retirement. His exit handed reigning Junior champion, Sandell a comfortable lead and Patrik ended the leg almost a minute up on Kalle Pinomaki.

Alessandro Bettega completes the JRC podium at this stage, followed by Michal Kosciuszko and Tapio Suominen in fourth and fifth respectively, the latter two split by less than 5 seconds.

The event now concludes on Sunday, only three stages remain to be run, totally 40.75 competitive kilometres. SS21, the 10.38 kilometre-run through Valkola gets underway at 10.15 hours local time [8.15 hours British time].

Stay tuned to Crash.net for the final days happenings...


Loading Comments...