Leg 2: Gronholm in total control

The cars and drivers could scarcely look different but there is something very Schumacher-esque about the way Marcus Gronholm is dominating the WRC this year. With seemingly effortless ease, the Finn has pulled out such a lead in Rally Australia that he can afford to back off a little bit and preserve his car over the final leg

Leg 2: Gronholm in total control

The world champion won the last four stages of Leg 2 and has opened up a lead of 49.5 seconds on Subaru's Petter Solberg, who has been his most consistent adversary over the first two days. Unfortunately the Norwegian has just lacked the absolute pace of the leading 206, but he remains ideally placed for what would be a hugely popular debut win should Gronholm hit trouble.

After the morning's running Solberg looked to be under threat from the second 206 of Harri Rovanpera. The Finn set three fastest times on the opening four stages to move ahead of Carlos Sainz and into third place. He has found Solberg a much tougher nut to crack than the Ford man though, and the gap has remained more or less static at around 20 seconds ever since.

Sainz appeared to struggle early on, but upped his pace during the latter stages as he had done on Leg 1. Nevertheless, he seems stuck in no man's land in fourth, 19s down on Rovanpera, 40s up on Tommi Makinen in fifth.

On SS15 Makinen jumped the start and was subsequently handed a 10-second penalty. This could have proved crucial to the Finn in his tight battle with Colin McRae had the Scot not retired after the previous stage.

The Focus driver had been gradually getting quicker through the day, when he landed heavily after a jump over a cattle grid near the end of SS14. The impact crushed the front of the Ford, breaking the radiator, and although he made it to the end of the stage - setting the third fastest time! - the car would go no further.

His retirement created a great battle for the final points scoring place between two more Fords of Markko Martin and Francois Duval. The two traded places throughout the later stages of the leg, with Duval ending the day with a slender 0.7s lead. It will be a fight to watch over Leg 3 for sure.

McRae was the only 'works' retirement, but Jani Paasonen came close to joining him when he rolled his Mitsubishi on SS16. However, the Finn managed to get going and make it to the end of the stage. There some running repairs were made, but the work was not completed in time and the Finn received a minute penalty for missing his starting slot in SS17.

A crowd-pleasing Super Special stage wraps up the action on Leg 2 later today (Saturday). It's unlikely to have any impact on Gronholm's lead, although it will be interesting to see how he approaches it with victory almost within his grasp.

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Leg 2am: Gronholm keeps it steady

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