It had been a long time coming. A very long time. But on this day in 1999, it finally happened: Marcus Grönholm began his first event as a full-time factory driver in the FIA World Rally Championship.
The tall Finn spent much of his early career driving semi-works Toyotas – and actually gave the Corolla WRC its world championship debut at the 1997 Rally Finland – but there was never quite a seat at the top table for this most likeable of chaps.
That was until Peugeot knocked on the door towards the end of 1998. Grönholm signed for a part-programme in 1999 and his first complete programme the following season.
With the serious work aboard a 206 World Rally Car not starting until June, Grönholm was allowed to busy himself with other teams earlier in the year.
He remains one of the few drivers to have competed for four WRC manufacturers within the space of a few months. He drove a works Toyota in late 1998, then started Sweden with Seat and Portugal with Mitsubishi. But it was on this day the then 31-year-old Grönholm’s career really kicked up through the gears.
Absent from the WRC’s frontline (306 Maxi outings notwithstanding) since the end of Group B in 1986, Peugeot Sport returned at the Tour de Corse a couple of months earlier.
Marcus wasn’t needed for the French asphalt as Gilles Panizzi drove instead, but his name was on the side of one of the two cars at the 1999 Acropolis Rally. François Delecour drove the sister 206.
And what a day today was for the Finn, 21 years ago. The only action on 6 June 1999 was a Sunday evening superspecial at Anavissos, south of Athens.
On his debut with his new employer, Grönholm was fastest. The long drive back up country to Agii Theodori was done with a smile on his face and a 0.1sec lead at his back.
Unfortunately for the Finn, that was as good as it would get. His 206 drowned out in a water crossing on the first gravel stage the next morning and the clutch was burned out trying to extricate the car.
Things improved, however. And improved quite quickly. By the end of his first full season with Peugeot, Grönholm was a world champion. ผลบอลสดแม่นยำ
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