Day 1: Gronholm vaults ahead

Marcus Gronholm and the Peugeot team will come away from the first day of the Cyprus Rally in good humour and in the lead. The Finn took control of the event during the afternoon stages, leaving colleagues Harry Rovanpera and Gilles Panizzi in second and fourth

Day 1: Gronholm vaults ahead

Gronholm went into the after-lunch stage in fifth place after the usual difficult morning on gravel, but was within a second of winner Rovanpera over the short Kato Amiantos test. This took him past the Subaru pair of Solberg and Makinen, but still behind the impressive Panizzi.

On stage four, the 38km Lagoudera Spilia, heavy rain fell and things took a turn for the worse for hopeful Marcus-beaters. The Finn flew through in 34m30.3s, a time that only Sebastian Loeb of Citroen would get near. Thus Gronholm was back at home in first place.

Rovanpera dropped time to Panizzi and Solberg but hung on to second. Solberg goes into the overnight halt in third place, with Panizzi back in fourth.

Whilst one Subaru has run well, it all went wobbly for the unfortunate Tommi Makinen on SS4. This time it was steering trouble: not terminal, but it cost him over ten minutes.

Loeb's stage four time, just 1.5 seconds off Gronholm, was one of those Sebastien specials that come with no warning. This one even included a spin. Typically, this is his first experience of Cyprus. He's 5th in the overall standings, 40 seconds down, but must be considered a man to watch.

Team-mate Carlos Sainz had a bad start to this rally, but improved to 9th overall during the afternoon, finishing ten seconds back (a relatively good time) on Lagoudera Spilia. Colin McCrae, in the third Citroen, lies sixth.

Burns had a terrible run through stage four and seems to be out of contention for this event already. The ever-popular "hydraulic problems" have been reported by the British Peugeot driver.

Ford just aren't living up to the hype. Marko Martin had major hydraulic difficulties throughout the afternoon and lies 1m22s down in 7th, four places in front of team-mate Duval.

"We had to use the manual gearchange and we had no diffs," reported Martin. "That made it difficult to drive especially on these twisty stages. Because we're using the manual shift we had no handbrake too, so I had remember some old Scandinavian flicks to get round the tight corners."

Less than fifteen seconds cover the top four, but the battle may be for second tomorrow if, as seems likely, Gronholm goes forwards and Panizzi goes backwards.




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Taking the rough with the smooth
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