Gronholm stakes Oz claim

With Subaru's Petter Solberg and Ford's Markko Martin both targeting victory in this weekend's Rally Australia in their fight for the chmapionship runner-up spot, the man who has enjoyed the most success of the current stars down under, Marcus Gronholm, has now staked his own claim to a fourth victory on the event

Gronholm stakes Oz claim

The gravel roads that make up the final round of this year's WRC event around Perth in northern Australia, are similar to those used on the Rally Finland, where Gronholm secured the Peugeot 307's only victory of the season so far. On top of this Gronholm loves the Australian event and secured three straight wins there between 2000 and '02.

"It's a difficult event where you're driving over marble-like stones at high speed with trees lining the stages on both sides!" said Gronholm. "The reason I like this rally so much is that its stages are fast and smooth - a bit like Finland - and because as long as you stay on the road they are a great pleasure to drive.

"Both titles have already been decided so nobody will have anything to lose or defend. It's likely to be very open and the stakes will be a battle for the honour between us all.

"We won't have too bad a start position this year which means we won't spend the opening day sweeping the stones aside. I believe the 307 WRC should enable us to fight at the sharp end and I will be doing all in my power to win."

Gronholm, a double world rally champion, has not been as consistently competitive in 2004 as he would have liked, and lies fifth in the drivers' standings. But the Finn believes that this event could be the most open of the season and that he has as much chance as anyone to take the honours just a week after Peugeot and sister company Citroen announced their withdrawal from the WRC at the end of 2005.

"You need a car that is powerful - and ours is - as well as precise and stable to help you keep on the ideal line through the corners," he said. "We have worked hard on the latter in order to eliminate the hint of oversteer we still had. We will soon see whether we have succeeded in completely resolving this little problem. Apart from that, we haven't had any mechanical problems in the last two rallies so there doesn't appear to be any reason why we shouldn't be able to stay in the fight until the finish. And while I can still improve on asphalt, I feel at home on the stages of Rally Australia.

"Everyone's motivation will be the same, so perhaps the outcome will be decided by the way we get over the jet lag and by who is in the best physical shape. I generally tend to recuperate quite well."

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