Gronholm leads Loeb in Finnish rally

Updated: 25 February 2007 09:54 IST

Finland's two-time world champion Marcus Gronholm won five of the eight stages Friday to lead after two days of the Neste Rally Finland.

Gronholm leads Loeb in Finnish rally

Jyvaskyla:

Finland's two-time world champion Marcus Gronholm won five of the eight stages Friday to lead after two days of the Neste Rally Finland. Gronholm, driving a Peugeot, was also runner-up twice to France's Sebastien Loeb. "I don't think Loeb can beat me here. Looking at results, Jyvaskyla should be the best event for our car,'' Gronholm said before Friday's start. "Very close. We were not able to shake Loeb off our heels,'' Gronholm said Friday. In the lead Gronholm leads Citroen's Loeb by 5.8 seconds after 146.3 kilometers (91 miles). Peugeot driver Markko Martin of Estonia is third, 47.4 seconds behind, and Finland's Toni Gardemeister is fourth, 51.9 back in a Ford. Norway's Petter Solberg in a Subaru, the 2003 world champion, challenged, but dropped about 20 seconds to the top two after driving into a ditch on the eighth stage to be in fifth place. Gronholm's lead could have been larger but his co-driver Timo Rautiainen contracted cramps in his back on the sixth stage, where the pair finished seventh in a 14-kilometer (9-mile) stage won by Solberg. Minor mistakes Loeb maintained he went at almost full speed during the day. "I really tried to make the top placing, but I have been making some minor mistakes and Gronholm has managed to benefit,'' Loeb said. The Frenchman has won seven rallies, a season record, and six in a row, also a rally world championship record, which began in 1979. Loeb, 30, is on his way to repeat as champion. He leads this year's series with 75 points, 27 ahead of Solberg, the only other driver this season to win races. Of the drivers who could finish in the top eight and earn championship points, Italy's Gigi Galli went off the road on the day's first stage and retired; and Australian rookie Chris Atkinson hit a stone and withdrew with damaged steering and suspension on the day's third stage. (AP)

Topics : Formula 1
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