Gronholm cruises to sixth home win

Marcus Gronholm has won the Rally Finland, after a conservative drive throughout the final day's stages

Gronholm cruises to sixth home win

It is the Ford driver's sixth win in his home event in seven years, and his fourth win of the season.

Gronholm took control of the rally when Sebastien Loeb hit a rock and destroyed a tyre early yesterday. Loeb admitted defeat at that point, and Gronholm was able to control his pace to ensure victory.

"The car was perfect throughout," Gronholm said. "It was really a good rally for me and the team. I could never believe, when driving in this event in the '90s, we would have won so many and nearly all the rallies since 2000."

It also marks the 50th win by a Finnish driver in the Rally Finland.

Loeb was happy to settle for second, however it means he will leave this season with at least one round in the WRC he has yet to win. He has also yet to win in Japan and Great Britain, which are still coming up in this year's championship.

"This is one of the rallies I have never won and it is one of the most fitting rallies for the championship," Loeb said.

"I was able to push Marcus before the puncture, but second - it's ok, I'm happy, and it's eight points for the championship.

"I hope I can beat Marcus one year here though!"

None of the points-paying positions changed during the final leg, as the gaps between drivers were large enough for everybody to hold station.

Gronholm's countryman and Ford teammate Mikko Hirvonen was the one to shine today. With Gronholm protecting his lead, Hirvonen took his turn in the limelight and won all four of this morning's stages.

He was elated at taking a podium finish in his home event. He said: "I can't describe how good it feels, and it was my dream to be on the podium at home and now I have got it."

Henning Solberg finished fourth in his OMV Peugeot, equalling his best WRC result. He finished in the same position in last year's Cyprus Rally.

"This is only the start of my big career," joked the 33-year-old.

Gigi Galli finished fifth on his return to the WRC, despite suffering a 20-second penalty after his Peugeot failed to start last night, and he was two minutes late getting the car into parc ferme.

"We made a very careful start and we have to be very pleased with this result, and also for Pirelli," Galli said, with the tyre manufacturer providing most of the backing.

"I didn't make any mistakes, for us it was great chance to keep our face in the world championship. I hope to have the chance to race again from here until the end of the year."

Janne Tuohino, Jussi Valimaki and Jan Kopecky rounded out the top eight in their privateer entries.

Pos Driver Make Time 1. Gronholm Ford 2h52:50.3 2. Loeb Citroen + 1:06.7 3. Hirvonen Ford + 1:34.5 4. Solberg Peugeot + 3:57.8 5. Galli Peugeot + 5:39.9 6. Tuohino Citroen + 6:05.0 7. Valimaki Mitsubishi + 6:55.4 8. Kopecky Skoda + 10:15.0 9. Stohl Peugeot + 13:28.0 10. Wilson Ford + 14:47.4 11. Atkinson Subaru + 19:00.6 12. Katajamaki Ford + 21:05.8 13. Wilks Suzuki + 23:15.4 14. Latvala Toyota + 25:24.0 15. Andersson Suzuki + 25:52.9 
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