Gronholm Nearing Home Win

Local hero Marcus Gronholm has all but won the Rally Finland after rival Sebastien Loeb suffered a puncture on the final stage of Leg Two

Gronholm Nearing Home Win

Loeb lost more than 37 seconds to Gronholm after the incident on the final stage of Leg Two, the 12.9km stage of Himos.

Gronholm now has a lead of one minute and seven seconds after winning six of Leg Two's eight stages. Just four stages - or 66km - stand between him and his first victory of the season tomorrow.

Loeb still maintains a comfortable gap over Gronholm's teammate Markko Martin, who continues to have one of his best rallies of the season. Martin, who had won the event in 2003 in a Ford Focus, is 35.4 seconds behind the Championship leader.

Petter Solberg has moved into fourth place after Ford's Toni Gardemeister suffered a puncture on the longest stage of the rally, the 40.96km stage of Moksi-Leustu. Gardemeister lost more than two minutes to stage winner Gronholm after the anti-deflating mouse failed to deploy.

Gardemeister chose not to get out and change the tyre, and drove the remaining 13km of the stage with it disintegrating. The incident dropped him to seventh, but he fought back immediately and won the final stage of the day, SS17.

Ford's Roman Kresta, who had a disastrous Leg Two, continued to have power steering problems with his Focus and, aware that Subaru's Chris Atkinson was likely to catch up and want to overtake, he stopped at the side of the road to let him past.

Unfortunately for both drivers, Atkinson had problems of his own to contend with and didn't make it as far as Kresta. He had an accident and left the road at a fourth-gear corner, 21 km from the start line and rolled into a ditch.

A group of spectators pushed the car back onto its wheels, but the damage prevented the Australian from continuing any further. Kresta lost more than five and a half minutes on the stage to Gronholm as a result of the confusion.

Harri Rovanpera has been promoted to sixth after Gardemeister's problems. However, the Ford driver is only 3.8 seconds behind and the pair will battle it out hard for the position tomorrow.

Francois Duval is a distant eighth in the Citroen. The Frenchman lost time when he overshot a junction on SS10 and is now one minute and 19 seconds adrift of Gardemeister.

Top 20 leaderboard at the end of Leg Two:

Pos Driver Make Time 1. Gronholm Peugeot 2h 22:30.7 2. Loeb Citroen + 1:07.0 3. Martin Peugeot + 1:42.4 4. Solberg Subaru + 2:22.2 5. Hirvonen Ford + 2:25.9 6. Rovanpera Mitsubishi + 3:32.7 7. Gardemeister Ford + 3:36.5 8. Duval Citroen + 4:56.2 9. Solberg Ford + 5:43.9 10. Tuohino Skoda + 5:53.9 11. Schwarz Skoda + 9:03.1 12. Pons Citroen + 9:34.9 13. Kuistila Mitsubishi + 17:48.8 14. Sordo Citroen + 20:56.1 15. Aava Suzuki + 23:10.6 16. Wilks Suzuki + 25:47.2 17. Warmbold Ford + 27:10.6 18. Valousek Suzuki + 28:12.3 19. Betti Renault + 29:20.4 20. Kresta Ford + 37:09.7 
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Author Tim Redmayne
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