Taking the rough with the smooth

Road position is becoming something of a monotonous litany on rough gravel events, but as ever it has shaped the leaderboard after the first two stages of the Cyprus Rally

Taking the rough with the smooth

Richard Burns, first on the road, says that the loose gravel is costing him at least a second a kilometre, and the time sheets bear that out. He's resigned to his fate, but with today's two stages scheduled to be re-run in the afternoon, the problem should get slightly better.

Harri Rovanpera, in the lead, isn't hugely surprised to be there, having started 11th on the road today. Gilles Panizzi is equally phlegmatic about being second. The Frenchman made a small set-up mistake on the first stage, having wrongly adjusted his traction control. But he's fully aware of having enjoyed an advantage this morning, and says it will be tough to hang on in the afternoon.

"Fantastic, isn't it," said a glum Markko Martin at service. "So there's a tarmac expert nearly leading this rally...I think that tells you everything about today." Markko's mission is all about survival, but there's one person whose performance is beginning to look a little ominous.

Marcus Gronholm is currently a strong fifth, less than a second behind Petter Solberg in fourth. What's special about that is the fact that Marcus is third on the road. The gangly Finn seems to shrug off this big disadvantage as easily as he was swatting away the flies at the baking hot service halt in Limassol's port.

"I don't know why I'm still able to set OK times," he said. "What I try to do in these situations when I have a bad road position is just to drive a bit more smoothly and neatly, in order to make the car slide as little as possible. Yes, I'm still losing time. But at least it's not 40 seconds!"

This afternoon's stages are reruns, so the playing field should be more even. Heat is going to be a big factor as well as the sun gets higher in the sky, especially on the long stage four.

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Day 1: Gronholm vaults ahead

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