Marcus Grönholm travelled to New Zealand for the 11th round, locked in a close championship battle with Sébastien Loeb - Grönholm with four wins, Loeb on five.
In his mind, the Finn had already decided to hang up his helmet at the end of the year, but in order to do so with a third title, he had to beat Loeb.
The battle raged back and forth. Before the last spectator stage, the score was 8:8 stage wins, with Grönholm ahead overall by just 0.7 seconds.
Loeb claimed his ninth stage win on the short 3.14km Mystery Creek. But it was not enough. Grönholm won Rally New Zealand with a margin of 0.3 seconds.
It had been the closest result in the history of the WRC as only at the Safari Rally in 1973 and at the Ivory Coast in 1985 did the first two finish with the same time, but back then times were calculated in full minutes.
This story is an excerpt from 'WRC 50, The Story of the World Rally Championship 1973-2022', written by Markus Stier. Purchase your copy here.
Cover Photo: © McKlein