Such was the extent of Citroën Xsara driver Sébastien Loeb’s domination of the World Rally Championship in 2005 that by the time the crews arrived in Finland for round 10, their rivals’ behaviour was bordering on the desperate. 

Former world champion Petter Solberg went so far as to vow not to cut his hair until the Frenchman was beaten. Luckily for him, the yumps and crests at Jyväskylä had always been a happy hunting ground for the locals. The odds-on favorite to win was two-time champion Marcus Grönholm, and he was indeed the early leader in his Peugeot 307, albeit with Loeb in hot pursuit. 

Grönholm held firm until stage five, when a heavy landing impacted co-driver Timo Rautiainen’s vertebrae. With him hardly able to breathe, let alone speak, Grönholm was forced to reduce his pace, and his lead over Loeb fell to just 5.8sec by the end of day one. Undeterred and with adequate medical attention on standby, the pair soldiered on. That was until a final-day puncture finally put an end to Loeb’s imperious streak.

Grönholm won by 66.7sec, and while this did little to impede Loeb’s run to a second title, some much-needed pride was restored.

Hamir Thapar

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