Leg 1: Panizzi and Peugeot in total control

The sun is setting on Ford's hopes of stopping Peugeot claim its third successive World Rally Championship title. As had been widely predicted, Gilles Panizzi has been the dominant force on the Sanremo Rally, despite feeling some effects of his recent broken collarbone. He won seven of today's eight stages

Leg 1: Panizzi and Peugeot in total control

The battle for second place may be raging between Panizzi's team-mate Richard Burns, series leader Marcus Gronholm and Citroen's Philippe Bugalski but with Citroen not eligible for championship points, the reigning World Champions are effectively holding the top three places comfortably.

A maximum score for Peugeot will secure the title regardless of where Ford finishes but that equation could be fairly academic as only Markko Martin is currently in the makes' points for the Blue Oval with a scant three points in his hand right now.

While the Peugeots and Citroens have dominated the stage times today, Tommi Makinen's Subaru was 'best of the rest' as the Finn finally got to grips with a car that has defeated him more than once this season. A recent test session, combined with some hard work at yesterday's shakedown, restored his confidence in the car. However, on the way to the final stage of the day, he broke a driveshaft and was unable to reach the start line.

The only hope to break the iron grip of the French teams on this event is that the rain that has constantly threatened will actually arrive. Heavy clouds and humid conditions have come and gone throughout the day. However, the rain has held off and, apart from a few damp patches under the trees that have not been burned off when the sun broke through, the roads have remained frustratingly dry!

Tomorrow's stages are essentially repeats of today's although several are reversed and one pair has been combined into a monster 42kms marathon that could make or break a few drivers' chances.

In the battle for fourth (or last) place in the series, Hyundai marginally has the edge over Mitsubishi and Skoda, although losing Armin Schwarz on today's opening stage was a blow for the Korean camp.

Schwarz hit something and that was that. Carlos Sainz was next to go when he found hydraulic fluid gushing all over his engine bay, but apart from Makinen, retirements have been few and far between.

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Leg 1 am: Panizzi takes early lead

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