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Finnish driver Marcus Gronholm winner of the Acropolis Rally June 4, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Racing & Motors.
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marcus_gronholm_wins.jpg  Finnish driver Marcus Gronholm (right), winner of the Acropolis Rally yesterday, sprays champagne over his co-driver Timo Rautiainen (top center). The Finn, who won the race for the second straight year, covered the rally’s 23 special stages in 3 hours, 49 minutes and 22.6 seconds. French driver Sebastian Loeb (left) finished second while Norwegian Petter Solberg (front center) ended in third place. Gronholm’s victory was his third of the season and helped him extend his lead over Loeb in the world championship by two points.

Marcus Gronholm fends off challenge by world champion Sebastian Loeb for back-to-back victories at the Acropolis Rally. Marcus Gronholm held on to first place in the Acropolis Rally yesterday to win in Greece for the second year running and extend his lead in the world championship. The Finn, driving a Ford Focus, was pursued on the final day of the rally by world champion Sebastian Loeb but finished 38.6 seconds ahead of the Frenchman.

“I feel very good,” said Gronholm, who won five stages over the three days of rallying, one fewer than Loeb. “We didn’t have any problems this weekend. The rally was much better than last year. Now we have expanded our lead in the championship but there is still a long way to go,” added the Finn, who also won in Greece in 2006.

Norwegian Petter Solberg, driving for Subaru, finished in third place, 1.34.1 minutes behind Gronholm. The five final stages yesterday did not produce any changes at the top as Ford’s Mikko Hirvonen finished fourth after picking up his second stage win of the rally. He was followed by Henning Solberg in fifth and Australian Chris Atkinson in sixth.

Citroen’s Loeb, who won in Greece in 2005, started the day 43.3 seconds behind Gronholm but closed the gap by 6.1 seconds after winning yesterday’s first stage. The Finn struck back immediately to take the next stage, a 20-kilometer run in Avlona.

With victory in sight, the world championship leader admitted that he was just trying to “concentrate and keep safe” for the final three stages. The Finn capped off his victory by beating Loeb by 0.1 seconds in the final special stage of the rally at the Olympic equestrian center in Markopoulo. “I am not happy with second place but there is nothing we can do now,” said Loeb.

The world champion described the puncture he suffered in the demanding Aghioi Theodoroi stage on Saturday afternoon as a “bad moment” that put an end to his hopes of winning the Acropolis Rally. Gronholm’s victory in Greece was his third of the season and helped him extend his lead over Loeb in the world championship by two points. The Finn is on 65 points while the Frenchman is on 56. Ford also top the manufacturers’ standings with 114 points. Citroen are second on 86 points.

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