Rally Finland: Martin cruises to victory

After an intense battle with Marcus Gronholm on day one, Markko Martin was expecting a fight to the finish on Rally Finland. However with Gronholm out, the Estonian was left to cruise to his second career WRC victory by the massive margin of 58.9s

Rally Finland: Martin cruises to victory

The Ford star's victory was his second in the last four events, and also made him a rare non-Scandinavian rally winner on Finnish soil. Although primarily focussed on getting his Focus to the finish of the event, Martin still set an impressive pace on the final three stages, and was amongst the fastest three runners on each one.

"This win is very special," said Martin. "It actually means more to me than my first victory in Greece. It was a real shame that Marcus had to retire, as it would have been a good battle throughout the rally." When asked whether he could have beaten Gronholm, Martin added: "It was always very close. But I also think I had a little bit in reserve for later."

Martin's dominance could not be more in contrast to the bruising fight for second that raged all day between Richard Burns and Petter Solberg, who started the day split by just 0.5s. Norwegian Solberg took the early advantage, only for Burns to retake the spot at the halfway point of the day.

Burns continued to assert his authority on second with the fastest time on SS21, his third stage win in a row. But Solberg fought back immediately with the fastest time on SS22, ensuring he would go into the final stage just 1.8s behind the Peugeot star. The Subaru star then set the fastest time on SS23, going three seconds faster than Burns to earn second by just 1.2s.

Although inevitably disappointed to be beaten by Solberg, Burns can take consolation from the fact that he further extended his championship lead over Carlos Sainz, who finished the event in fourth overall. Both will gain further breathing room over Marcus Gronholm, who retired from the lead of the event on day two.

Sebastien Loeb put in a strong gravel performance to claim fifth, with five-time world champion Tommi Makinen leading a trio of Finn's in sixth. Jane Tuohino finished seventh in a year-old Ford Focus, with Sebastian Lindholm rounding out the pointsin eighth.

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