World rally champions rarely appear overnight and Marcus Grönholm, the last Finn to win the title, is a classic example of how practice makes perfect.
His first WRC rally was his home event in 1989 and over the next 10 years he contested 27 more rallies without a podium. However, Finnish Group A titles in 1994, 1996, 1997 and 1998 brought him to the attention of a number of WRC teams.
The turning point came in 1999 when Grönholm was signed to Peugeot and settled into the agile 206 WRC. His first WRC win came in 2000 in Sweden 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, into which Grönholm never settled and he scored only three victories in 2004 and 2005.
In 2006 he joined Ford and over the next two seasons he won 12 rallies in a Focus RS WRC enabling the Blue Oval to take the manufacturers’ title in both years. In the drivers’ championship, however, he was narrowly beaten by Sébastian Loeb on both occasions. In 2006 he lost out by a single point while in 2007 he was just four adrift.
Grönholm retired at the end of the 2007 season, saying he wanted to stop while he still had the speed to win rallies. He was lured out of retirement for one-off drives in Portugal in 2009 and in Sweden the following season.