Martin and Duval struggle

Ford's Markko Martin and Francois Duval have admitted they're finding the slippery muddy stages of this weekend's Wales Rally GB difficult to negotiate as they find themselves dropping off the pace of leader Sebastien Loeb (Citroen)

Martin and Duval struggle

Martin is currently in fourth spot, 33s down on Loeb, while Duval, who won the opening stage of the event on Thursday evening, is a further minute back from his team-mate.

With the switch to a mid-September date for this year's event, the stages were expected to be drier and faster rather than has been seen traditionally. But overnight rain and showers throughout the morning have left slippery and soggy routes with all drivers complaining of a lack of grip. Martin and Duval, though, seem to be finding it harder than others.

"The stages were very muddy," Martin said. "We thought there was also standing water in the forests, but there was none and it had almost stopped raining. It's difficult to enjoy these conditions. We were lucky to escape one incident on the first stage, and we slid along a ditch for a while on the second stage. Both should make good viewing from the in-car cameras!"

Martin was fortunate to escape a rally-ending accident on SS4, the second run through Trawscoed. "About one kilometre from the end, we came over a crest and landed in a ditch on the left-hand side of the road," he said. "The car bounced across the track into the ditch on the right, and back again into the same ditch on the left.

"It finally ended up back on the road, but I closed my eyes twice - that's how close we were to an accident. The car picked up so much foliage from the ditches that I couldn't see through the windscreen initially and, when it cleared, the screen was broken."

Duval also struggled with his windscreen wipers, which prevented him from clearing the mud from his vision. "It was slippery everywhere," he said. "Even where there wasn't mud, the hard stone base of the road was like driving on slippery cobblestones. It wasn't a nice start."

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