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GP Week : Issue 40
5 Minutes with ... MARCUS GRONHOLM Retired champion Marcus Gronholm accepted the invitation to drive Prodrive’s development Subaru Impreza S14 at the Vodafone Rally of Portugal. He spoke withMARTIN HOLMES GPWEEK: Pleased to be back? MARCUS GRONHOLM: It’s not so bad to be back again, but it is new in many ways. Even after a bit of testing it was still a new car for me, so there were question marks in my mind when I came to Portugal. What have you noticed has changed since your last world championship rally – in Britain at the end of 2007? Obviously the number of top teams is fewer, but not so many other things. When we did the recce before the rally, things seemed to be exactly the same as they used to be. Obviously there was the other major change, the Pirelli single supplier control tyre. That makes life easier for everyone – no more worrying about things like cutting the treads; which special tyres we must choose for the morning stages, that sort of thing. Maybe the ultimate grip is not so good with these tyres but it is the same for everybody. What do you think about the domination of Citroen in the sport these days? Hopefully Ford have the chance to come back. I certainly believe that Citroen would not dominate rallying in the same way if they did not have Sebastien Loeb driving for them. For sure, not! How do you rate Mikko Hirvonen who inherited your place as Ford’s number one driver? He is going okay, but he still needs to beat Seb sometimes to get real credibility. But he is fast and close behind Seb. He was always doing good things when we were together and he is an incredibly reliable driver. And his replacement Jari- Matti Latvala certainly has the speed, but is not so lucky sometimes, making some mistakes at times – sometimes a bit stupid mistakes – but he deserves his place in the team because he is fast enough. I also made mistakes when I was his age but, age-for-age he has very much more experience at this stage than I did ... 24 Jari-Matti is young (24 years old on the day the stages started in Portugal), but some of the drivers nowadays are much younger still ... Oh dear, aren’t some of these boys really young! But I must say that Evgeniy Novikov seems to be good. And of course there is the new Pirelli Star Driver idea, which gives young drivers remarkable opportunities. What has been your motorsport life since you officially retired? Last year I was still working with Ford, doing different PR jobs for them, but the main thing was doing some rallycross races. That was good fun. We were driving a Fiesta which gave 580bhp, getting on for twice what I was used to in the Focus World Rally Car. In rallycross the starts of the races are everything – if you mess up the start you get behind and you are lost. The immediate sensation driving the Fiesta was the fantastic power but it wasn’t so easy to drive. The transmission technology was not the same level as the rally car. Any rally plans after Portugal? For the moment, no, Portugal was just a holiday rally for me. I hope that I can do some nice things in my life where I can get the same enjoyment as I have done in rally driving, but for me there are so many things I am doing back home in Finland. One day I will be helping my wife in the two shops we run back home. We also have a restaurant and a gym, and when I am away it is never so easy to check on what is happening. We are still living in the farmhouse in Inkoo – my cousin is running the family farm. My children are getting older. Our daughters are now 18 (she is driving a car already!) and 15, and one son is coming up to 13. They have their own schools and sports. My son is not very interested in motorsport – ice hockey is his big thing!