Day 1 update: Burns leads overnight

Richard Burns held sway for Peugeot after a frenetic first day out on the asphalt of the Rally Deutschland 2003, despite complaining of 'vibrations' in the closing stages. Marcus Gronholm and Sebastien Loeb harried Burns all the way to finish the seventh and final stage as the top three

Day 1 update: Burns leads overnight

The Englishman started the day in front, even with a lack of grip from tyres that were, in his opinion, too hard. The leading gap was never more than a few seconds until Markko Martin picked up the pace with convincing wins on stages three and four.

But the Estonian's Ford Focus rebelled and dropped two gears on SS5, forcing him back down the order with the loss of 50-seconds. Martin and co-driver Michael Park had to wait until the service interval after stage six for repairs and finished the day tenth, 1m27s off the lead.

With the ailing Martin out of the way it was Loeb who lunged forward. The Frenchman was 0.8s off Burns' pace on SS5 and looking strong in the Citroen. But with 1.1s between second and third at the end of SS6, it was Gronholm's Peugeot that emerged ahead after SS7. The Finn was just 0.7 off Burns' final stage time, compared with Loeb's 2.7s gap.

"I didn't drive my best in the morning," said Gronholm, "but the afternoon was much better. Now we just have to keep up the pressure tomorrow."

Half a minute off the overnight lead and in fourth place is Loeb's team-mate Colin McRae. The Big Mac was second overall after stage two, but an overshoot and some minor car problems dropped him out of the lead battle.

The third Citroen, piloted by Carlos Sainz, finished the day behind Gilles Panizzi's Peugeot in sixth. 'El Matador' had the odd overshoot, and the odd spin, but managed to keep Francois Duval behind him by just 3.1s.

Frenchman Cedric Robert is a youngster making a big impression. The FFSA backed Bozian Racing Peugeot has set a string of good times, but he lost time on the long SS4 after all but shredding his tyres. Eighth place at this stage is well deserved.

Subaru's Petter Solberg and Tommi Makinen have been out of sorts. Neither has managed any truly competitive stage times. Solberg's had the better of it, though, no major problems and ninth overall. Makinen lost a lot of time to a power steering problem and then retired when that led to a flat battery.

Skoda's new Fabia WRC already looks quicker than its predecessor the Octavia WRC, but both Didier Auriol and Toni Gardemeister have had the odd niggle. Auriol had more than that on the final stage, however, retiring with an engine problem.

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Day 1 update: Burns holds slender lead

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Day 1 update: Burns holds slender lead

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