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Gronholm Laments Tyre Choice

Former world champion Marcus Gronholm believes Peugeot only have themselves to blame for losing vital ground to overnight New Zealand Rally leader Sebastien Loeb with the wrong tyre choice on the opening leg

Gronholm had been within a few tenths of a second of leader Loeb at the day's halfway stage, with Petter Solberg just a few tenths further behind, but saw his chances of snatching the lead dashed when he went too soft on his tyre choice and lost valuable time.

That meant at the end of the day Loeb had managed to pull out a strong 23.1 seconds leads over Gronholm, with Citroen's Francois Duval taking the third spot from Solberg.

Gronholm said: "I was reasonably pleased after the first loop of stages, knowing that I had made a tyre choice that was a bit too hard. Unfortunately, we had the opposite problem in the afternoon, and choose tyres that were too soft.

"We struggled to find traction, so it was a frustrating afternoon. Generally speaking, it was quite a messy day where we made life difficult for ourselves. However, we end the leg just 20 seconds off the lead and we have had no problems with the car.

"I've always had a good feeling with the roads here, so we can still challenge for the lead. I'm looking forward to the rest of the event."

Peugeot motorsport boss Jean-Pierre Nicolas admitted the French manufacturer still had to learn about the new generation of Pirelli tyres - but claimed that the damage was not enough to have cost them the chance of going for victory.

"We've had no problem with the cars, but our lack of experience with our new Pirelli tyres led us to pick tyres that were too hard for the first loop of stages," he explained.

"As is so often the case we over-compensated for the mistake, and took tyres that were too soft in the afternoon's second loop of stages. Luckily Marcus managed to limit the time loss: we are still in the thick of the action and 23 seconds is not an insurmountable gap."

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