Gronholm Wins Rally Finland

Marcus Gronholm has taken his first victory of the season after winning his home event, the Rally Finland

Gronholm Wins Rally Finland

He was able to ease off on the final four stages of the rally to protect the comfortable lead of 1:07 he had over WRC points leader Sebastien Loeb at the start of the final leg.

Despite not winning a stage on the final leg, Gronholm only lost three tenths of a second to Loeb over the last four stages to take his fifth victory on the event.

Loeb, whose chances of victory were ruined by a puncture at the end of yesterday, extended his Championship lead over Petter Solberg to 29 points after his comfortable run to second. But Loeb didn't let up in his pursuit of victory and recorded the fastest time on SS19.

If results go his way, the Frenchman could wrap up his second successive WRC crown at September's Wales Rally GB, four rounds before the end of the season.

Marko Martin secured his fourth podium finish the season with third place, having finished in the points on every rally this season.

Petter Solberg had a stronger day in his Subaru Impreza to finish the event in fourth. After dropping down the order on the first leg due to an accident, the Norwegian climbed up through the field, holding off the charge of local driver Miko Hirvonen on today's final leg. He recorded the fastest time on the rally's final stage, SS 21, and edged out Hirvonen by 5.6 seconds.

Hirvonen impressed after being promoted to the full works squad for the first time this season, and his fifth place was the highest of any Ford Focus driver. He held the position after a battle with teammate Toni Gardemeister, with each driver securing a stage victory on the leg. Gardemeister had overhauled Mitsubishi's Harri Rovanpera on the first stage of the day, SS 18, the first running of the 7.76 km Kuohu stage.

Hirvonen eventually finished more than a minunte ahead of his teammate Gardemister, who has still not finished lower than sixth all season.

Rovanpera had a quiet run to seventh, with Citroen's Francois Duval securing his second consecutive points finish after his enforced two event lay-off with eighth.

Rally Finland results - top 20:

Pos Driver Make Time 1. Gronholm Peugeot 2h 54:11.0 2. Loeb Citroen + 1:06.7 3. Martin Peugeot + 1:35.6 4. Solberg Subaru + 2:08.0 5. Hirvonen Ford + 2:13.6 6. Gardemeister Ford + 3:32.4 7. Rovanpera Mitsubishi + 4:27.9 8. Duval Citroen + 5:10.4 9. Solberg Ford + 5:45.8 10. Tuohino Skoda + 6:42.3 11. Schwarz Skoda + 10:17.5 12. Pons Citroen + 10:44.1 13. Kuistila Mitsubishi + 20:35.1 14. Sordo Citroen + 26:06.8 15. Aava Suzuki + 27:39.4 16. Warmbold Ford + 28:02.1 17. Wilks Suzuki + 29:56.7 18. Betti Renault + 35:43.1 19. Kresta Ford + 38:09.6 20. Baldacci Fiat + 47:21.6 
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Gronholm Nearing Home Win
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