Our final two shortlisted drivers are both legends of the modern WRC era, but is either of them the WRC’s Greatest Driver? It’s up to you. On Saturday, you’ll be able to watch our video about double World Champion Marcus Gronholm. While on Sunday we reflect on Sebastien Loeb’s incredible career so far.
Made your choice? Then make sure you register your vote on the home page.
Here’s some background information on our two final nominees:
Born in Finland in 1968, Marcus Gronholm drove in 145 World Championship Rallies, winning 30 of them and finishing on the podium 58 times. He was World Rally Champion in 2000 and 2002 and retired from the series at the end of the 2007 season, still very much at the top of his game.
World Rally Champions rarely appear overnight and Gronholm certainly proved to be a late developer. His first WRC rally was his home event, the 1000 Lakes, in 1989, and over the next ten years he contested 27 more Championship rallies, in a variety of cars, without getting a podium. But on the domestic scene he did well; becoming Finnish Group A Champion in 1994, 1996, 1997 and 1998. It was these finish results which brought him to the attention of a number of manufacturer teams.
The turning point for Gronholm came in 1999, when he was signed to the Peugeot team and settled into the agile Peugeot 206 WRC. His first WRC win came on the Swedish Rally in 2000 and after four more sensational wins 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 had to be content with runner-up to Sebastian Loeb in both years. But it was extremely close; in 2006 he was beaten by a single point while in 2007 he trailed by just four. Gronholm retired at the end of the 2007 season, maintaining that he always wanted to stop while he still had the speed to win rallies.
The only modern day WRC driver in our poll, Frenchman Sebastien Loeb’s achievements so far make him easily the sport’s most successful competitor. A career total of 41 WRC wins (by mid 2008) puts him 15 ahead of the man in second place, Carlos Sainz, while only Tommi Makinen has equalled Loeb’s record of four consecutive Drivers’ titles. But for Loeb it certainly isn’t over yet. And the fact that he is still at the peak of his career suggests that more wins and titles are on their way.
Born in the Alsace region of France in 1974, Loeb excelled initially as a gymnast before turning his attention to motor sport in 1995. He contested the French Citroen Saxo Trophy in 1998 and won the title in 1999, which brought him to the attention of Citroen Sport team principal, and career mentor, Guy Frequelin. With help from the French Motorsport Federation, the FFSA, in 1999 Loeb made his WRC debut in a Citroen Saxo Kit Car on the Rallye Catalunya and over the next two seasons built up his WRC experience, mainly in Saxos, but also with two FFSA supported appearances in a Toyota Corolla in 2000.
In 2001 he underlined his potential by finishing second in a guest appearance in a factory Xsara WRC on Rally Sanremo. Frequelin signed Loeb to the fledgling Citroen WRC team in 2002 and Loeb took his first WRC win that year on Rallye Deutschland. In 2003 he won three rallies and missed out on his first world title by only one point. The next year, however, Loeb really got into his groove. He won six rallies in 2004 and was crowned World Champion. In 2005 he won it again and became the only driver to win ten rallies in a season. Title number three came in 2006, at the wheel of a Kronos-run Xsara while Citroen took a year out from competition to develop the Xsara’s replacement, the C4. Despite missing three rallies after falling from his mountain bike and breaking his arm, Loeb’s eight other rally wins were enough to secure him the title.
In 2007 Loeb returned the factory Citroen team and drove its new car, the C4 WRC, to eight more rally wins and himself to title number four. And there’s been no let up this year. While five wins from eight rallies hasn’t been quite enough to put him in the lead of the series at the mid point, he remains extremely close, and his best rallies are still to come...