Can Gronholm rock on the rolling stones?

Marcus Gronholm can clinch the World Rally Championship this weekend but he'll need to turn in a spectacular performance in Australia to do so.

Can Gronholm rock on the rolling stones?

As championship leader the Peugeot ace, very much this season's surprise package, will have to blast the 206WRC into the Western Australia forests first on the road. Thanks to the presence of the unique 'ball-bearing' gravel surface (quite literally a layer of small round bauxite stones), traction will be very much reduced and later runners, as many as seven or eight cars behind the Finn, will have a definite advantage.

Tactics will therefore play a major part in the event as Gronholm aims to keep his inevitable time loss to a minimum while his title rivals; Richard Burns, Colin McRae, Carlos Sainz and, to a lesser extent, Tommi Makinen will be doing everything they can to keep Gronholm in the rally lead until the final day when they can finally push past.

Peugeot is very much a dark horse for this event. Although the French team was present last season the 1999 version of the 206 was a fast but fragile beast. Now it can be the class of the field although the team's back to back 1-2 successes in Corsica and San Remo offer no realistic form guide this time out.

Burns knows that he's got to use his perceived advantage in Australia to full effect if he wants to erase the memory of a dreadful summer that saw what seemed to be a convincing championship lead wiped out. The Oxford driver is struggling at the moment, hanging on to second place in the series as much by luck as judgement but Australia and the upcoming Rally GB are considered two of the Subaru driver's strongest events.

Ford's season has gone from strength to strength but Australia is not an event that has looked kindly on the Blue Oval. Ford has yet to win here and although McRae (who starts his 100th WRC event in Australia) has tasted champagne in his Subaru days, Sainz has also been dealt an unkind hand too often in the past.

As for Makinen, nothing short of a win will do. Third place in San Remo, ahead of the title chasers, brought him back into the frame but the event where he has twice clinched championship crowns will have to be good to him this time out. Of course, coming out of the traps in fifth place could see him ideally placed over the opening day.

The rest are likely to be bit-part players although Burns' team mate Juha Kankkunen could be Subaru's ace in the pack from a four-car team that also includes Petter Solberg and Markko Martin on his first drive for his 2001 employers. Kankkunen loves this event, has won four times (albeit not recently) and if he's fired up might just take points away from those who need them most.

Rally Oz is the championship's most popular event and a great place to party. The question is, however, will it be champagne in the sun for Gronholm or must it be put on ice until after the long drag back to cold and wet South Wales?

shares
comments
Asphalt aces key to silly season
Previous article

Asphalt aces key to silly season

Next article

Rally Australia news round-up

Rally Australia news round-up
The key steps on Rovanpera's romp to a history-making WRC title Plus

The key steps on Rovanpera's romp to a history-making WRC title

With only cameo roles played by legendary Sebastiens Ogier and Loeb, Kalle Rovanpera ushered in the new hybrid era for the World Rally Championship by becoming its youngest champion. Here's how Toyota's Flying Finn crushed the competition, led by Hyundai's departing star Ott Tanak

WRC
Dec 1, 2022
How trailblazer Kalle Rovanpera has ripped up the WRC record book Plus

How trailblazer Kalle Rovanpera has ripped up the WRC record book

At the tender age of 22, Kalle Rovanpera is redefining what’s possible to achieve in rallying and inspiring a new legion of fans as a result. The newly-crowned World Rally Championship title-winner and his peers reflect on his ability and the start of his success in the top tier

WRC
Nov 26, 2022
How Hyundai and Neuville gatecrashed Toyota's homecoming party Plus

How Hyundai and Neuville gatecrashed Toyota's homecoming party

Thierry Neuville signed off the 2022 World Rally Championship season with his second win of the season in Japan after Toyota rival Elfyn Evans suffered a late puncture. With Sebastien Ogier and Kalle Rovanpera also delayed by punctures and incidents, it opened the door for Neuville and Ott Tanak to record Hyundai's second 1-2 of the season in Toyota's own backyard

WRC
Nov 14, 2022
The message a WRC stalwart sent which its new king couldn’t answer Plus

The message a WRC stalwart sent which its new king couldn’t answer

Sebastien Ogier might be the outgoing World Rally champion, but it didn’t stop him reminding everyone of the skills that made him an eight-time world champion. As victory at Rally Spain led Toyota’s charge to a titles clean sweep, it did pose a question to newly-crowned champion Kalle Rovanpera which he could not answer

WRC
Oct 24, 2022
Autosport gets to grips as a WRC co-driver Plus

Autosport gets to grips as a WRC co-driver

The majority of headlines may focus on the exploits of drivers in the World Rally Championship, but the challenges facing their co-drivers are no less demanding. Autosport got in the passenger seat with Toyota Gazoo Racing to find out just what it takes to succeed

WRC
Oct 6, 2022
How Rally New Zealand encapsulated record-breaking Rovanpera’s WRC title charge Plus

How Rally New Zealand encapsulated record-breaking Rovanpera’s WRC title charge

Kalle Rovanpera’s coronation as the new World Rally Championship king had been a long time coming, only to be postponed by hiccups in Belgium and Greece. But at Rally New Zealand the “Full Send” Finn demonstrated exactly how he's been able to rewrite the rallying record book as he stormed to victory to become the youngest ever world champion

WRC
Oct 3, 2022
How a Toyota lifeline reignited Lappi's WRC career Plus

How a Toyota lifeline reignited Lappi's WRC career

Motorsport can be brutal at times. One moment a driver can be the next big thing, but it can spiral in the other direction so quickly. Thankfully, sometimes drivers receive second chances. And Esapekka Lappi has taken his World Rally Championship lifeline in both hands

WRC
Sep 28, 2022
How team orders could make Hyundai's historic Acropolis Rally a Greek tragedy Plus

How team orders could make Hyundai's historic Acropolis Rally a Greek tragedy

Thierry Neuville led a maiden Hyundai 1-2-3 in the World Rally Championship, as the previously soft i20 N became a battle-hardened Greek warrior at the Acropolis Rally. But with team orders in play between the winner and Hyundai’s title protagonist Ott Tanak, could the result come back to haunt the team?

WRC
Sep 12, 2022