Leg 1 round-up: It's totally wide open!

The twisting roads and searing heat of Cyprus have taken their toll on many drivers, but at the end of the first day of the Cyprus Rally, the conditions have blown the World Rally Championship wide open

Leg 1 round-up: It's totally wide open!

Retirement for series leader Tommi Makinen after crashing off the road in his Mitsubishi and a sluggish start for second-placed Carlos Sainz in his Ford means that the chasing pack has a great opportunity to close the gap as the season hits its mid-point.

Sainz broke a rear shock absorber on the day's sixth and final stage and must hope for a better showing tomorrow. He currently lies sixth overall - the last of the points places.

For the second rally in a row Harri Rovanpera's Peugeot was the first retirement, once again with suspension failure after hitting a rock. But with reigning world champion Marcus Gronholm leading the event in another of the new 206 WRC evolutions on their debut, things are not so grim for the French team.

Gronholm is still suffering from clutch problems, despite the team changing the gearbox, but isn't unduly worried about the car's ability to handle the rough stuff.

Didier Auriol hasn't got to grips with the car yet - "I am still fighting it and I don't like the handling" - and Gilles Panizzi retired his semi-works version after four stages with a full set of flat tyres in one go.

Richard Burns and Colin McRae are nicely placed to attack tomorrow (see separate story), while Gronholm must face up to running first on stages where a layer of slippery dust has clearly had an effect on stage times today.

Kenneth Eriksson was second fastest on the first two stages today from a start position of 14 in his Hyundai - proof indeed of the fickle nature of the roads. But turbo problems in the sixth stage have made his grip on third a little more tenuous.

With temperatures hitting 35 degrees in the mountains, fire put paid to Petter Solberg's superb run, his Subaru left a charred wreck. Although an engine fire was initially suspected, it now seems that the Impreza may have been a victim of the minor oil leak first noticed this morning...

A similar fate befell Hamed Al Wahaibi's Teams Cup Subaru and both will have to have new cars flown out to Greece for the Acropolis Rally in two week's time.

Al Wahaibi's dramas, and a forest fire on another stage, have forced the organisers to halt proceedings on three of today's six stages and so positions tonight are not as 'true' as they might be.

If tomorrow runs more smoothly, then we are in for a great battle all round and one that could see the Brits in command by the time they return to Limassol after a further eight stages.

For full results table click here.

For full entry list click here.

For the itinerary click here.

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