<
>

Gronholm already clinched title

AUCKLAND -- World rallying champion Marcus Gronholm of Finland is anticipating an anti-climax in the final two rallies of the
season after securing his second world title on Sunday.

"It's been a fantastic year, I couldn't really ask for more. We will see what happens in Australia now, but it will be strange with no title to fight
for," said the Peugeot driver.

Gronholm added to his 2000 title with victory in the Rally of New Zealand.

The 34-year-old enjoyed a titanic battle with Briton Richard Burns in the final round of the season at the Rally of Britain two years ago before
claiming his maiden title.

Last year's championship went down to the wire in Britain when Burns was crowned champion and Gronholm believes that this year's
remaining two rallies in Australia and Britain will be strange contests.

"I don't know how this championship compares to the first one two years ago," Gronholm said. "Back then it was a fight to the last stage,
whereas this time we did it with two rounds remaining.

Gronholm has failed to finish in only one event when he retired from the demanding Safari Rally, while he was excluded from the Rally of
Argentina after winning because of technical irregularities with his 206 WRC.

"I'm surprised that we've tied things up so early in the season," he said. "But we've had a good finishing record.

"Apart from when I was excluded in Argentina, we've only retired from one rally, the Safari, and we've been able to score points on most
events."

Peugeot also secured the manufacturers' crown in New Zealand and the French team will retain their impressive driver line-up of Gronholm,
Burns, Frenchman Gilles Panizzi and Finn Harri Rovanpera next year.

They will also have significant funding from a new sponsorship deal with tobacco giant Marlboro, which will see the 206 WRC's run in red
livery.

Team principal Corrado Provera said the success was due to the team he had put together and added he expected another fight between
Gronholm and Burns for the title next year.

"Next year there will be only two big changes," Provera said. "The cars will be red and we will change the numbers around. Marcus will have
number one and Richard will have number two.

"We wanted to succeed when we came back in 1998 so we tried to choose the best drivers, the best technicians, the best engineers and I
think we have succeeded in having everyone working together.

"We're delighted with the championship, but next year will be even better."