Leg One: Kankkunen draws short straw to lead...

The final forest stage of today's first leg of Telstra Rally Australia witnessed a bizarre juggling act among the top crews as they jockeyed for position into tomorrow's stages

Leg One: Kankkunen draws short straw to lead...

With Saturday's start order being determined by positions after SS9 to avoid unseemly tactical driving in front of the Langley Park corporate guests, the sport's star drivers slowed and even stopped in order to try and line up in the best possible place tomorrow.

"If this is what we have to do to win the World Championship then I'm not interested," fumed Richard Burns. Ironically, he was one of the few who didn't stop on the stage, choosing instead to pace himself throughout the day. He ended the stage in what could be a perfect fifth place while team mate Juha Kankkunen found himself inadvertently leading the rally after starting the stage fourth!

Finland's Marcus Gronholm led the event from the first stage until SS8 but then slipped to fourth, ahead of Burns and behind Tommi Makinen who could only shake his head at the tactics.

Kankkunen kept his lead after SS10, Langley Park's superspecial, but Gronholm dropped another spot to fifth after finishing with the 29th-fastest time.

Carlos Sainz stopped on the final stage for too long and will go into tomorrow eighth, angry that the FIA would not allow the event organisers to repeat last year's scheme of letting the rally leader chose his start slot for the following day.

"It worked well last year and we were able to drive flat out to be in the best position. Now we are being penalised for being quick and it seems strange that we have to lose time to try and get ourselves a better start position."

Only one of the five possible World Champions retired today, Colin McRae sidelined with an engine that was pouring out oil at the end of SS6.

"The championship is out of my hands now," he said. "The best I can hope for is that Marcus doesn't score points."

With the four remaining title-contenders all well-placed behind the 'track cleaners', battle should - should - begin in earnest tomorrow.

To see the very latest standings, click here. And to see the schedule click here.

Remember, the times in our live rally table are in local time, which is eight hours ahead of GMT.

Visit the official Telstra Rally Australia website at www.rallyaustralia.com.au


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