Update: Martin streaks ahead

Ford's Markko Martin leads the Rally Deutschland after the first four stages. The latest Focus RS WRC 03 has immediately fulfilled its promise on asphalt and the Estonian blitzed the field by almost 10 seconds on SS4, the longest stage of the day

Update: Martin streaks ahead

Richard Burns was the first to show, setting the best time on each of the first two stages and keeping his Peugeot in front overall after three. The Englishman was running first on the road, and for once that seemed an advantage.

On the gravel rallies that the crews have tackled recently, car one tends to sweep the loose stuff off the road making the conditions better for those behind. On the opening asphalt stages in Germany, Burns got a cleaner surface as corner-cutters dragged the loose stuff onto the road to slow those down the order. The difference was not a marked one though and Burns' form is still encouraging.

When the rally moved from the first two vineyard stages to the third and fourth tests in the Baumholder tank testing area, Burns was faced with a dirtier surface and could do nothing about the flying Martin. Richard's still a strong second though.

One of the big aims for the team producing the 2003 version of the Focus was to up its asphalt pace and there's now no doubt that they've succeeded. Martin led the way on both SS3 and SS4 and now has a 12.3sec lead.

Marcus Gronholm started the day quietly, but he's up into third place after SS4 and looking as threatening as ever in the second Peugeot. Citroen's best placed driver is Sebastien Loeb, fourth and less than a second behind Gronholm, however Colin McRae is also firing on all cylinders today. He was second overall after two stages and despite losing some time with an overshoot on SS3, the Scot's Xsara WRC is fifth overall.

Pre-event favourite Gilles Panizzi has had a few small problems, including some brake trouble, but he's sixth overall and still has plenty of time to move his 206 WRC up the order.

Skoda's Fabia WRC is already looking promising on its competition debut. The team has insisted that this is really just an extended test session, but by and large it has already proved quicker than the Hyundai WRC which is its logical initial benchmark.

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Update: Burns takes early lead
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Day 1 update: Burns holds slender lead

Day 1 update: Burns holds slender lead
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