Leg 2 round-up: Burns leads McRae

Richard Burns leads the Cyprus Rally at the end of Leg Two, but the Subaru star lost out in a tactical battle with fellow Brit Colin McRae during Saturday's final stages as the leading pair fought to steal the best start positions for tomorrow's final leg in Cyprus

Leg 2 round-up: Burns leads McRae

While overnight leader Marcus Gronholm may have proved last year that you can defeat the Australian gravel despite running first, he discovered today (Saturday) that loose rocks on top of more solid surfaces in Cyprus will catch you out every time. The Finn struggled running first on the road and quickly slipped to fourth from his overnight lead. He only moved back up into third when Francois Delecour retired with a broken engine in his Ford Focus.

Burns showed his pace early on and took the lead on the opening stage of the leg (SS7) and there he stayed for much of the day, only to be usurped by McRae with just two tests to run.

But with Sunday's starting line-up depending on the previous day's finishing order, the Scot quickly changed his mind and relaxed his pace in order to hand the lead back to Burns, leaving himself second and Gronholm third.

"I don't think its going to be beneficial to be first on the road tomorrow, but there is actually nothing I can do about it," said a philosophical Burns.

Even though McRae has the advantage of not being first man out on Sunday morning, the Scot does not consider his position to be ideal. While Burns may struggle to hold on to second place, according to McRae it is Ford team mate Carlos Sainz who will present the biggest threat.

"It's not the perfect position," said McRae. "I should have an advantage over Richard [Burns], albeit a small one. But I think Carlos [Sainz] will be the problem tomorrow. He can still win this rally."

Sainz finished the day fourth, 24 seconds adrift of Burns and has a prime spot for the final leg. The Spaniard, who won here last year, set six fastest stage times today and took over a minute off the leaders in only a little more mileage, so his task is very much 'do-able'.

Despite losing two places and more than 25 seconds, Gronholm is very much still in the running. The reigning world champ has managed to stay in touch with the leaders and is hoping to fight back tomorrow.

"I tried to keep the gap down," said Gronholm, "but our tyres went off fairly badly, we'll see tomorrow if I've done enough."

Leg Two retirements included Didier Auriol whose Peugeot cooked its engine after damaging the radiator, Kenneth Eriksson who coasted out of the event following alternator failure and Neil Wearden who was forced to withdraw after his Peugeot developed a terminal oil leak in its gearbox on the first of the day's stages. The Brit's problems were exacerbated with a dose of gastro-enteritis that left him feeling exhausted.

Sunday's final eight stages could be the most tense of the season. Not only is the event at stake but the world championship is wide open right now, following standing's leader Tommi Makinen's retirement on Friday. It's game on!

For full results table click here.

For full entry list click here.

For the itinerary click here.

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