Gronholm wins in Sweden
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Gronholm wins in Sweden

Date: 10 Feb 2003 Author Type: Registered Journalist
Author: Andrew Walker
Marcus Gronholm`s Peugeot 206 started the final day ahead of Tommi Makinen`s Subaru Impreza, Richard Burns`s Peugeot, Markko Martin`s Ford Focus, Colin McRae`s Citroen Xsara and Petter Solberg`s Subaru, and that`s the order in which they finished the second round of the FIA World Rally Championship.

Margins altered during the day, of course, and by the end of the rally Solberg was just 3.3s behind McRae, but the only leader board place change came after the top six.

Monte Carlo winner Sébastien Loeb moved his Citroen up from tenth to seventh, which allowed him to keep his WRC lead, although he`s now on the same points as teammate McRae. Toni Gardemeister`s Skoda, Carlos Sainz`s Citroen and Freddy Loix in the quickest Hyundai finished eighth to tenth.

“Sweden is one of my favourite rallies, so it feels fantastic to win here for the third time,” said Gronholm. “I always have a very good feeling in the snow, and the car has been brilliant throughout the rally. Today was all about trying to stay in front and not take any risks. Although Tommi was driving very quickly, I felt confident that we had a big enough gap today to keep him behind us. Luckily that was the case, but this rally is never easy, under any circumstances.”

Third overall for Peugeot, Burns “realised this morning that there was no real hope of catching Tommi without taking very big risks. So I decided to settle for third place, which is the highest I`ve ever finished in Sweden.”

Makinen`s Subaru had indeed looked very secure in second place, but his teammate Solberg, having got over his earlier set-up problems, tried his hardest to overhaul McRae: “I got very close, but it just wasn`t good enough.”

Several pundits reckoned, at the start of the final day, that Martin wouldn`t be able to hold off the challenge for fourth place from McRae, but the Estonian kept his nerve and his pace, and maintained fourth place to the finish. On the long and misty Brunnberg stage, where he set fastest time, he was 9 seconds faster than McRae, “and when I heard that I eased off a little for the rest of the way.”

Martin`s teammate François Duval crashed out, but Mikko Hirvonen`s Focus was just one place off the leader board.

The Citroen team rescued itself from the early demoralising situation when it didn`t have a single car in the top ten, to finish fifth with McRae, seventh with Loeb and ninth with Sainz. It has Loeb and McRae on equal points at the top of the drivers` championship table, and it leads the manufacturers` championship with 24 points to Peugeot`s 22.

Gardemeister drove his Skoda Octavia as hard as it would go, and finished with one championship point for eighth place. Hyundai suffered from a lack of pre-event testing, but Loix finally got the set-up he liked, and he finished tenth overall, three places up on teammate Armin Schwarz.

The championship moves to Turkey for the first time later this month. The all-gravel Rally of Turkey, based in the coastal resort of Kemer on 27 February - 2 March, has replaced Kenya`s Safari Rally in the calendar.

Final positions from Swedish Rally:

1. M Grönholm/T Rautiainen FIN Peugeot 206 3hr 03min 28.1sec
2. T Mäkinen/K Lindström FIN Subaru Impreza 3hr 04min 18.9sec
3. R Burns/R Reid GB Peugeot 206 3hr 04min 46.0sec
4. M Märtin/M Park EE Ford Focus RS 3hr 05min 13.9sec
5. C McRae/D Ringer GB Citroen Xsara 3hr 05min 43.9sec
6. P Solberg/P Mills N Subaru Impreza 3hr 05min 47.2sec
7 S Loeb/D Elena F Citroen Xsara 3hr 06min 42.8sec
8. T Gardemeister/P Lukander FIN Skoda Octavia 3hr 06min 47.3sec
9. C Sainz/M Marti E Citroen Xsara 3hr 06min 52.3sec
10 F Loix/S Smeets B Hyundai Accent 3hr 07min 04.5sec

FIA World Rally Championship (after round 2 of 14):

1= S Loeb 12pts
1= C McRae 12pts
3= M Märtin 10pts
3= M Grönholm 10pts
3= R Burns 10pts
6. T Mäkinen 8pts

1. Citroen 24pts
2. Peugeot 22pts
3. Ford 15pts
4. Subaru 11pts
5= Hyundai 3pts
5= Skoda 3pts
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