Gronholm expected title defeat

Marcus Gronholm said he had accepted before the start of the Rally GB that his crash in Ireland had probably cost him this year's World Rally Championship title

Gronholm expected title defeat

The Finn had led the standings for much of the year and was 13 points clear of Sebastien Loeb at mid-season.

But the Frenchman narrowed the gap with victories on the asphalt rallies in Catalunya and Corsica, and with three rounds remaining Gronholm's advantage was down to four points.

Both drivers then crashed out in Japan, before Loeb took the points lead with victory in Ireland after Gronholm had crashed heavily when running third on the opening morning.

That result meant that Loeb only had to finish sixth in Britain even if Gronholm won the rally. The Citroen driver settled into third place on the opening leg and remained there until the end, while Gronholm held second behind his Ford teammate Mikko Hirvonen and could only hope that Loeb would hit trouble and retire.

"I'm disappointed of course because it would have been great to win the championship but it was clear before the start it would be difficult after Ireland," said Gronholm.

The 2000 and 2002 world champion announced earlier this season that he would retire at the end of the year. Although there have been rumours that he could still contest a part-season in 2008, Gronholm insisted that he was looking forward to retirement.

"It's nice to think I don't have to drive any more in the fog and rain and mud," he said.

Ford have already re-signed Hirvonen as team leader for next season, and Stobart Ford driver Jari-Matti Latvala has been strongly linked to the second works drive.

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