Peugeot Sport’s Marcus Grönholm had to settle for second place in Rally New Zealand earlier this month, but after setting the pace during the shakedown event for Rally Italia on Thursday, the Finn is keen to claim his first rally win of the year this weekend.

Peugeot Sport’s Marcus Grönholm had to settle for second place in Rally New Zealand earlier this month, but after setting the pace during the shakedown event for Rally Italia on Thursday, the Finn is keen to claim his first rally win of the year this weekend.


"I was a little disappointed not to have won in New Zealand again," Grönholm said. "We will be able to count on our car's excellent reliability . We simply lacked a little 'plus' in New Zealand to be able to fight for victory. The stages (in Italy) will be very different to what we found in New Zealand and we have done more work on the car since then".


However, the Finn’s 307 WRC was less than a second quicker than the Subaru Impreza WRC of current championship leader Petter Solberg. Following his success last year in Sardinia, when he was fastest on 13 of the 19 stages and won by over 2 minutes, the Norwegian is likely to be Grönholm’s biggest rival this weekend.


"Sardinia should be a very good event and I think we have a strong chance of winning it if everything works out well,” Solberg said. “It's a different rally to New Zealand as it's more narrow and twisty and that, along with the temperatures, is better for the tyres. I'll be running first on the road, but that's the price you pay for leading the championship so I'm not complaining!"


Belgian Francois Duval was third quickest, ahead of reigning champion and Citroën team-mate Sébastien Loeb, while Ford's Toni Gardemeister and Mitsubishi's Harri Rovanpera made it five manufacturers in the top six. Young Swede Daniel Carlsson was the quickest privateer on his first outing in the Team Olsbergs Subaru Impreza, setting the ninth-quickest time.


Privateer Citroën driver Manfred Stohl will start the event on Friday despite suffering from food poisoning, which forced him to miss the repeat run through the stages on Tuesday. The Austrian posted the 20th-fastest time on the shakedown test.


Rally Italia-Sardinia shakedown times

1 Gronholm (Peugeot) 2:58,2s

2 Solberg (Subaru) 2:59,1s

3 Duval (Citroen) 3:01,4s

4 Loeb (Citroen) 3:02,6s

5 Gardemeister (Ford) 3:02,7s

= Rovanpera (Mitsubishi) 3:02,7s

7 Martin (Peugeot) 3:03,3s

8 Atkinson (Subaru) 3:04,0s

9 Carlsson (Subaru) 3:05,8s *

10 Hirvonen (Ford) 3:06,1s *

11 Tuohino (Skoda) 3:06,2s

12 Sarrazin (Subaru) 3:06,6s **

13 Schwartz (Skoda) 3:07,2s

14 Johansson (Subaru) 3:07,3s *

15 Kresta (Ford) 3:07,5s

16 Galli (Mitsubishi) 3:08,2s

17 H Solberg (Ford) 3:10,2s *

18 Higgins (Ford) 3:11,5s *

19 Pykalisto (Citroen) 3:12,2s *

20 Stohl (Citroen) 3:12,4s *

21 Pons (Peugeot) 3:12,9s *

22 Warmbold (Ford) 3:13,1s *

* privateer entry

** works car not nominated for manufacturers' points