Double World Rally Champion Marcus Gronholm returned to competitive rallying on the national-level Svully Rally in Norway last weekend. Driving a Group N Subaru Impreza, he finished second to Petter Solberg's Citroen C4 WRC, but he did garner some much-needed match practice ahead of next week's Rally Sweden.
He spoke afterward about the experience, and looked ahead to the WRC opener.
Q. How was the Svully Rally?
Marcus Gronholm: It was good. It was OK. I did it in the Subaru Cup car, which is not quite full Group N specification, and it went well. We won our class and finished second overall – although we were quite a long way behind Petter.
Q. That class was quite competitive, though?
MG: It was. Patrik Sandell and Andreas Mikkelsen were both in the same kind of cars as me.
Q. And you beat them both?
MG: Yes. It was quite close with Mikkelsen, the times were quite similar. But he had a puncture and then went to the snow bank for some time. But I was happy to beat them. I didn't know before if it would be OK; I haven't driven for a long time and I wasn't sure how it would be.
Q. How was the car?
MG: OK. I told Timo [Rautiainen, co-driver] before the event that it would take me some time in the first couple of stages to get used to the car. I think it's been 19 years since I changed gears using the clutch, so it did take some time – but I was about 0.2 of a second ahead of Mikkelsen on the first stage.
Q. The car wasn't quite the Focus RS WRC you'll be driving in Sweden next week, was it good to get some time in the snow?
MG: It was. The rally was 140km and it was useful to drive on the tires again. OK, the speed wasn't quite the same as it will be in the Focus, but it was good to check the notes and get used to listening to those again.
Q. How much has it helped?
MG: It has helped me, but the test I've got coming up now will help some more. It'll be good to start driving in the Ford.
Q. Where will you be testing exactly?
MG: We're not sure yet, we're still looking at things now. I just hope it warms up a little bit. It's -27 outside at the moment and that's much too cold!
Q. Can you win in Sweden?
MG: I would say it's quite difficult. I haven't driven for so long now and to be competitive straight away is tough. I will be disappointed if I'm not in the right kind of speed with the other drivers, though. I think it's fully possible to make the podium.
Q. And what about being fastest on Sagen, the stage you named your restaurant after?
MG: That's not so important, but it would be good to set some fast times.