Ford Rallye Sport driver Markko Martin broke Marcus Gronholm's run of Rally of Finland victories in fine style on Sunday.

Ford Rallye Sport driver Markko Martin broke Marcus Gronholm's run of Rally of Finland victories in fine style on Sunday.


Martin's Ford Focus RS WRC 03 set the pace on each day of the three-day event to score his second World Rally Championship victory of the season. But the Estonian's 58,9-second victory margin flatters do deceive... On the first day and the first portion of leg two, he was in a close-fought battle with Peugeot's Gronholm.


However, Gronholm's hopes of a fourth straight win in Rally Finland evaporated when his 206 lost a front wheel on SS15.


"I've dreamed of winning here ever since I was a young boy," said Martin. "This is the Grand Prix of the rally world and it's so special to be successful here because so few non-Finns have won this rally."


Once Gronholm retired, team-mate Richard Burns took up the challenge to the Ford Focus, until he, too, experienced problems on the second day. A failed wheel bearing cost Burns nearly a minute, and opened the door to allow Martin to extend his lead.


The battle for the final two podium spots heated up during each stage of the final day. After Martin won the first stage of the day, Burns and Subuaru's Petter Solberg won the rest of leg three's six stages.


Solberg's Impreza WRC won the penultimate stage after Burns had earlier clinched three in a row. The final day began with Martin winning the Parkkola 1 stage 18 and holding on to his minute plus lead overall. The main change was Solberg taking second on the stage and overall, dropping Burns to third.

Burns answered the challenge in his Peugeot by posting the top time for stage 19, Mokkipera 1. But the British driver was first by three-tenths of a second over Solberg who, in turn, was just two-tenths faster than Martin. At the time, Solberg stayed second overall but only by four-tenths of a second.


Burns was hungry as he demonstrated with a win on the 20th stage, Palsankyla. However, Solberg was staying in touch with second on the stage. Martin took it easier - keeping the Ford in the top three stage standings whilst holding his overall lead.


Solberg was edged out by Martin for second on the Kuohu stage 21 as Burns took his third consecutive stage victory. With Martin in second, Solberg lost ground to Burns for the second position in the overall standings, now a 3,1-second gap.


When the penultimate stage was won by Solberg's Subaru, Burns needed to win the final stage by enough time to take second overall. But Solberg won the final stage by three seconds, securing second position overall by a margin of one and two-tenths seconds.


"On the final stage I just went mad," Solberg said. "I was practically standing up in my car, I nearly went off on the first corner and bent the throttle pedal! There's no way I could have driven quicker. The final result is excellent and I'm so happy."

"It's been a good rally, and I was driving like crazy, but I didn't want to take too many risks today. To come away with six points and still leading the championship is superb," said Burns.


Citroën's Carlos Sainz finished fourth followed by team-mate Sebastien Loeb in fifth. Finland's Tommi Makkinen brought his Subaru home in sixth overall.


The Championship standings with five rallies left this season has Sainz now within five points of the leader, Burns, on 49. Current champion Gronholm is in third tied with Solberg at 38 followed by Loeb and Martin, now in contention, at 37 each.


Peugeto's The manufacturers' championship Peugeot on top at 101 to Citroen's 97 with Ford now in third in a virtual tie with Subaru at 60 points each.