Gronholm warns Burns of 'big fight' on home soil

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The Independent Online

Marcus Gronholm warned his World Rally Championship title rival, Richard Burns, to expect a difficult time in this weekend's Rally of Finland.

The Finn has won three events so far this season while his Peugeot team-mate Burns has yet to get off the mark, even though he leads the championship series courtesy of his consistency.

Gronholm, third in the championship, has promised to give Burns a "big fight" when the event gets underway, and has already ear-marked his home rally as another potential victory.

Scandinavian drivers traditionally dominate in Finland and the two-times champion Gronholm admits he felt the weight of expectation before finally stamping his authority on the WRC.

"You really want to do well," he said. "For a long time, I personally started this event under a great deal of pressure. I am now less prone to that, no doubt following my first win in 2000.

"I really would have liked to have come away from Germany with more points in order to get closer to Richard in the championship. But Rally Finland could be a great opportunity to get another win.

"I feel confident but I'm expecting a big fight, especially with my own team-mates, Harri [Rovanpera] and Richard, as well as with Markko Martin who is very strong at the moment."

The British Rally Championship front runner Jari-Matti Latvala will be competing on home soil for the first time and the young Finn is desperate to make it an event to remember.

The 18-year-old began his competitive career in Britain last year because he was too young to earn a driving licence in Finland. But he returns home having impressed sufficiently in Britain to be given a car by the factory Ford squad.

"It means an awful lot to me to be competing at the Rally Finland for the first time," he said. "And I'm lucky to have the best car to drive.

"It has seemed a long time coming. I'm finally old enough to compete there and at last I will be behind the wheel rather than just cheering from the sidelines."