Stage 19: Gronholm retakes lead

Marcus Gronholm has retaken the lead in Portugal after a slow time by Richard Burns on the penultimate stage of leg two

Stage 19: Gronholm retakes lead

Reports suggest that Burns was hampered by poor visibility. The roads are extremely dusty and the lack of wind means that the dust is hanging in the air. With dusk now falling, this would make the going extremely hazardous.

Ironically, if the rally had been running on time then the stages would have been completed in daylight and there would have been no such problems. However, an accident caused stage 13 to be stopped and delayed the event by nearly an hour.

Local driver Pedro Leal crashed heavily in his Group N Mitsubishi Lancer. Although both Leal and co-driver Redwan Casano were unhurt, the stage had to be stopped while they were cut free from the wreckage.

As a result, the organisers have decided to increase the gaps between cars running through the final stage to give the dust a chance to settle in the still and dark conditions.

Burns had fought back brilliantly after losing over a minute with power steering problems yesterday, setting a series of fastest stage times to sweep ahead of Gronholm and back into the lead.

However, he was 14s slower than the Peugeot on SS19 and now trails Gronholm by 3s overall.

Ford junior driver Petter Solberg has joined the list of retirements due to a suspected clutch problem, poor luck after a stunning drive in which he regularly matched the times of team leader Carlos Sainz. He had been running fourth earlier in the day before losing a place with a spin.

His demise means that there are now two privately entered Toyota Corolla's in the top six, Harri Rovanpera in fourth and Markko Martin in sixth, sandwiching the second Peugeot of Francois Delecour.

Overall positions after SS19:





















































1


Marcus Gronholm


Peugeot 206


3h33m11.7s


2


Richard Burns


Subaru Impreza


3h33m15.3s


3


Carlos Sainz


Ford Focus


3h33m50.7s


4


Harri Rovanpera


Toyota Corolla


3h34m53.8s


5


Francois Delecour


Peugeot 206


3h35m29.6s


6


Markko Martin


Toyota Corolla


3h36m58.4s


7


Freddy Loix


Mitsubishi Carisma


3h38m32.2s


8


Armin Schwarz


Skoda Octavia


3h38m48.3s


9


Toni Gardemeister


SEAT Cordoba


3h39m28.0s


10


Didier Auriol


SEAT Cordoba


3h41m55.4s

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