Date of Birth:05 Feb 68
FIA Championship Titles:2000, 2002
WRC Rally Starts:152
WRC Rally Wins:30
World Rally Champions rarely appear overnight and Gronholm - the last Finn to win the title - is a classic example of how practice makes perfect.
Gronholm’s first WRC rally was his home event, the 1000 Lakes, in 1989. Over the next ten years he contested 27 more World Championship rallies, in a variety of cars, without getting a podium. Luckily, however, things were going better for him in his domestic series, and four Finnish Group A titles (in 1994, 1996, 1997 and 1998) brought him to the attention of a number of WRC manufacturer teams.
The turning point for Gronholm came relatively late, in 1999, when he was signed to the Peugeot team and settled into the agile Peugeot 206 WRC. His first WRC win came in 2000 on one of his favourite events, the Swedish Rally, and after four more victories that year he was crowned World Champion. In 2002 he did it again, winning in Sweden, Cyprus, Finland, New Zealand and Australia.
In 2004 Peugeot switched to the bulkier 307 WRC, in which Gronholm scored only three victories throughout 2004 and 2005. In 2006 he joined Ford and embarked on another successful period, this time with the Focus RS WRC.
Over the next two seasons he won twelve more WRC rallies, enabling Ford to take the manufacturers title in both years. In the Drivers’ Championships, however, he was narrowly beaten by Sebastian Loeb on both occasions; in 2006 he lost out by a single point while in 2007 he was just four adrift.
Gronholm retired at the end of the 2007 season, saying he wanted to stop while he still had the speed to win rallies. But he has since started two Word Championship rallies - both on a one-off basis.
He was first lured out of retirement in 2009 to drive a Subaru Impreza WRC in Rally Portugal. On that occasion he crashed out while in fourth place. He fared better on the 2010 Rally Sweden when he was reunited with a Ford Focus RS WRC. While an electrical problem and a lack of testing dropped him outside the top-20, he produced some Gronholm magic to set a fastest time on the 14km Sagen - his favourite stage of the championship.