Leg 1 wrap-up: Burns on target

After a day of high drama in the Vale of Neath, Richard Burns is on course to claim his first World Championship title. Championship leaders Colin McRae and Tommi Makinen both retired early today; Makinen when he hit a rock and broke the wishbone on his Mitsubishi, McRae in a 100mph accident that saw him cartwheeling out of the rally lead

Leg 1 wrap-up: Burns on target

McRae's departure denied rally fans yet again the eagerly awaited head to head battle with arch rival Richard Burns to see just which of the two is the top British driver on this event.

With outgoing champion Marcus Gronholm holding the overnight lead, Burns is currently second and can pace himself over the next two days to ensure that he finishes in the top four and claims the title. However, should he fail, Colin McRae can still be crowned king as he holds the pre-rally points advantage. Equally, if Burns falls out of the top four and Carlos Sainz wins the event, it will be the Spaniard who lines up in Monte Carlo next year with number one on his door.

Other retirements today include Petter Solberg whose Subaru fell victim to a bizarre fuel problem, the official refuelling rig believed to have given a faulty reading that left the Norwegian high and dry on today's opening stage. Team mate Markko Martin was left at the roadside with an engine failure in SS5, one stage after Gilles Panizzi had to withdraw after his co-driver brother Herve was hit in the chest with a flying rock while trying to get the stricken Peugeot 206 moving after a gearbox problem.

Among the star drives today was that of Mark Higgins, the former British Champion finally getting his chance in a factory Ford Focus and tonight lying seventh, and also Neil Wearden whose Slipstream Subaru is 11th and closing on the top 10.

Fog on the final two stages was a warning of the fickle weather on this
event and with two days to go before the finish, Richard Burns won't sleep easily in his bed. Tomorrow opens with the longest stage of the rally and the day includes two test that have already been pounded into submission by the 120 car entry.

For full rally live timings, click here.

For rally itinerary, click here.

For full entry list, click here.

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