Meet the Patrons
Fast Finns are nothing new in the world of rallying. Since the World Rally Championship began in 1979, Finland has collected 13 drivers’ titles, almost double the number of any other country. Rallying is like a religion in the land of the 1,000 lakes.
Marcus Gronholm was the sixth Finn to be celebrated as a world champion. But for years, it looked as though the tall fella from Inkoo would be overlooked. Coming from a region close to the Swedish border, Marcus was not considered the most fashionable of Finns. This goes some way to explaining how it was 10 years after his world championship debut, that he signed his first full-time professional contract. With the benefit of hindsight, the signs of Gronholm’s greatness were there for all to see, with an enormously impressive set of results for an under-funded and seemingly out of favour Finn.
Then Peugeot saw them. And signed a 31-year-old Gronholm up in an instant.
Marcus contested 60 rounds of the World Rally Championship in a Peugeot 206 WRC, winning 15 events and two world titles. Every now and then, global motorsport throws up a car-driver combination which works with devastating effect. The Gronholm-206 partnership was one of those. Marcus made the car his own, while the Peugeot defined the shape and success of his career.
The 206’s replacement, the 307, was nothing like the WRC force its predecessor had been and, while he won three more rallies, Marcus would not put together another significant title challenge until his two years at Ford in 2006 and 2007.
Gronholm became an enormously popular member of the Ford family – and remains a regular in the blue corner of the service park on current rallies. His return to the WRC in a Focus RS WRC 08 on the Swedish Rally was one of the stories of the sport. He set fastest times, but an electrical fault halted his charge to a possible sixth win on the rally he loves the most.