Double world rally champion Marcus Gronholm is to make a shock return to the sport in a Subaru Impreza.
Gronholm, who won world titles with Peugeot in 2000 and 2002, has been an occasional visitor to WRC events since he retired from rallying at the end of 2007. He has concentrated on business interests and 'ambassador' work for his old team, Ford, although he has made sporadic appearances in rallycross.
However, the Finn - seen by many as the only man with the raw pace to challenge dominant five-times champ Sebastien Loeb - has been tempted into an outing on Rally Portugal in April. He will drive a Subaru Impreza WRC2008 for Prodrive, the Banbury-based team which ran factory Subarus until the manfuacturer's withdrawal at the end of 2008.
“I will not start aiming for the win, as I want to compare my speed with the regular WRC boys over the first few stages," said Gronholm."The important thing is to feel confidence and pleasure, coming back to an event that I enjoy very much and know the stages quite well.”
“We have to test the car first, we have to do changes, and find the right feeling and then I can say more,” he added. “I drove the car a little bit last weekend in Norway and we have another test planned in March, but for the moment I don’t really know where we are. But I hope we can do some little bit good times. That’s the aim.”
The outing is planned as a one-off at present. However, Prodrive is said to be talking to a number of manufacturers about a return to the full WRC in 2010 or 2011; Gronholm would be a useful test driver if the firm were to start developing an all-new car.