Costa Daurada, Spain: After a memorable finish in their last battle in New Zealand when just three tenths of a second separated Team Abu Dhabi's BP-Ford driver Marcus Gronholm from Citreon's Sebastian Loeb, the duo resume their duel for the drivers' championship in Spain today.
Gronholm is ahead of Loeb by 10 points with five rallies left in the 16-round 2007 World Rally Championship and the Finnish ace will be hoping to win his first Catalan rally in his final year of competition.
Loeb will be starting off as favourite as the three-time world champion will be looking to win his third successive Spanish Rally in this north eastern Catalunya region near Barcelona.
Gronholm, who was clocked at 2 min 34.7 seconds in the shakedown yesterday, said he will take risks only if he is ahead, bearing in mind the 10-point lead.
"Ten points is not enough. If I have a chance to win I will risk it. But if Loeb is quicker than second it is okay," said the 39-year-old who was unfortunate to lose here last year.
The Team Abu Dhabi BP-Ford ace won 10 of the 16 stages and was the fastest driver here in 2006 before turbo trouble cost him.
Fully aware of Loeb's strength on asphalt and with three of the remaining five races on the fast surface, Gronholm flew to Britain on Monday for asphalt tuition from Rob Wilson, former FIA Endurance Touring Car champion.
Loeb, who clocked 2 min 32.7 secs in the shakedown, said he had put New Zealand behind him. "It is not my style to dwell on things, though the fight against Gronholm in New Zealand was exceptionally fierce".
Commenting on his two consecutive wins here he said: "I don't think there is any secret. While the Finns manage to drive to the limit on gravel have more trouble on asphalt, it comes more naturally to me."
Waiting in the wings to take centre stage are Team Abu Dhabi BP-Ford's second driver Mikko Hirvonen, third in the driver's championship with 69 points and Citreon's local star Dani Sordo.
While Hirvonen will be looking to help his countryman Gronholm with a podium finish, so will the Spaniard Sordo who said he aims to help Citreon teammate Loeb.
"Competing on home ground is always nice. I will do everything to help Loeb and that means doing as well as I can against his main rival Gronholm."
The 43rd edition of the Spanish rally consists of 18 stages in total, covering 352.87 kms in a total route of 1359.96 kms.
World Rally 2007 Drivers' championship standings:
1 Marcus Gronholm ( Finland ) Ford (90 pts); 2 Sebastian Loeb ( France ) Citreon (80); 3 Mikko Hirvonen ( Finland ) Ford (69); 4 Daniel Sordo ( Spain ) Citroen (31); 5 Petter Solberg ( Norway ) Ford (28)
Manufacturers' & Teams world championship
1 Team Abu Dhabi BP-Ford - 159 points; 2 Citroen Total - 113; 3 Subaru - 60; 4 Stobart Ford - 55; 5 OMV Kronos Citroen - 35; 6 Munchi's Ford - 6