Gronholm wins Rally of Cyprus


Finland's Marcus Gronholm roared to victory in the Rally of Cyprus today after former world champion Colin McRae saw his chances go up in smoke.

Peugeot 206 star Gronholm maintained his grip on the World Rally Championship standings with his second win of the season after overnight leader McRae rolled twice in treacherous conditions.

Gronholm claimed victory with a combined time of 4hr 21min 25.7sec, 56.8 sec ahead of team-mate Richard Burns. Gronholm's compatriot Tommi Makinen, driving a Mitsubishi, was third.

The win sees Gronholm move 12 points clear of Burns in the standings after five races.

The Finn's route to victory was made all the easier on Sunday when McRae, who had led after the first two days, saw his hopes fade when he span out of control and rolled his Ford Focus twice.

"It is a fantastic feeling to win," admitted former world champion Gronholm, after the conclusion of a race made devilishly hard by some atrocious weather.

"This was a very tiring and difficult rally. The weather was terrible at times and some of those stages were the worst I have ever encountered in rallying.

"But it was a great result for my team and puts us in a strong position in the championship," he said, commenting on Peugeot's 1-2 finish and the French manufacturer's first victory in Cyprus.

Meanwhile McRae, who has been making noises about leaving Ford this season unless the reliability of his car improves, was left ruing another near-miss.

After conceding 15sec to Gronholm on the 15th special, he rolled his car on the 16th, to lose more than 50sec to the Finn. A further roll on the 18th special added insult to injury as McRae limped home in sixth.

"We think we went over twice in the accident," he said. "The car landed on its wheels and the power steering failed immediately. It just wasn't our day."

McRae was not the only driver to experience severe difficulties during the race.

Four-times World Champion Makinen and Finland's Harri Rovanpera emerged unscathed from a light roll on Saturday to stake a claim on fourth place.

Norway's Petter Solberg also rolled gently over the first loop of stages on Sunday but recovered to finish just out of the points.

The World Rally Championship moves to Argentina next month for the next race of the season on May 16th.