The two-time FIA World Rally champion, Marcus Grönholm shares the record of seven Rally Finland wins with the late Hannu Mikkola. Ahead of the 70th anniversary Secto Automotive Rally Finland, this is what the 53-year-old legend has had to say.
Rally Finland turns 70 this year. What do you think of that milestone?
“Finland is a rally country and Rally Finland in Jyväskylä is a tradition which people go to watch every year. It’s always a big happening.”
You made your Rally Finland debut on the 39th edition back in 1989, finishing 23rd. What was that like?
“I was with a Group N Lancia and had no experience. At that time you could recce for many weeks but I didn’t have time to do that because I was a farmer and I needed to be working on the field. I remember I would go up to Jyväskylä, do a bit of recce, come home and go back again but the others were driving through the stages for many, many weeks. It was a different story with a lot of stages.”
After that low-profile start to your Rally Finland adventure, when did you realise that the first of the seven wins that would eventually follow was possible?
“I was struggling at the beginning of the 1990s and still in the middle of the 1990s I was not sure what could be possible. But then when I got the drive from Toyota with the new Corolla I could see, okay, I can match the top guys and I was able to do good times and win stages. Then I started to believe that it is possible. But when I had the contract with Peugeot then I really got the chance and I won in 2000.”
Was that a dream-come-true situation or just one notable moment of your first world title-winning season?
“In one way it was a dream, but I won my first rally in Sweden and later in New Zealand. But, of course, the first victory in the home rally was some kind of ‘wow’.”
How much did winning your first Rally Finland make your subsequent victories that bit easier to achieve knowing you could do it?
“I had the feeling that if everything goes my way I can win. But I knew when I started a gravel rally if everything goes like I want I can win and the confidence goes up.”
Do you miss the thrill of competing on Rallly Finland’s high-speed stages?
“In fact I don’t really miss the driving in Finland because it’s so many years already since I stopped and I am quite okay with it. In the first few years after I stopped that I thought maybe I do one more. But I left as a winner from Rally Finland [in 2007] and I don’t want to do it again.”
Kalle Rovanperä is one of the favourites to win this year, what do you think of his ability and his chances?
“If he can handle the pressure from the people, because everybody is expecting in Finland that now Kalle is winning he will win. But you have to remember it’s his first time out there with this kind of car. I’m pretty sure he will be world champion one day.”