The tail end of the top ten at the end of day two was filled by Kenneth Eriksson, Tommy Makinen, Alister McRae and Possum Bourne. Eriksson used his immense WRC experience to good use in the tricky conditions and was able to retain his seventh place while the younger McRae in the sister Hyundai Accent really got stuck in and moved up from his overnight twelfth spot, 13 seconds behind the reigning World Champion.
The demise of the ageing Mitsubishi Lancer has been gradually gathering pace in recent events and Saturday was a prime example of how the team have simply worn out all possibilities for improvement. The opening day's handling problems that Makinen suffered, were lessened when the team reverted to the previous year's suspension settings although Makinen could still not match the pace of the leaders. Running on a relatively clear road, the four time champion was at a loss to explain his lack of speed and could only plug on as best he could. By the end of the day he was more than three minutes behind Gronholm and struggling to hold of A, McRae.
Behind the factory cars, Bourne's Subaru Impreza continued to lead the privateers, easily holding off Group N leader Manfred Stohl. Group N witnessed a titanic struggle throughout the day between Stohl, overnight leader Cody Crocker, Gustavo Trelles and Hamed Al Wahaibi in the battle for the last five places inside the top fifteen.
Crocker started the day just ahead of Toshihiro Arai in 14th place and over half a minute ahead of his nearest class rival Stohl. The Japanese driver's challenge ended when he rolled his Impreza on stage 12 although he continued until stage 15, leaving Crocker to defend his place against an inspired Stohl.
Stohl overhauled Crocker on the mammoth twelfth stage and pulled into a clear lead before a minor problem on stage 14 brought the charging Al Wahaibi to within three seconds of him.
A Wahaibi then laid into Stohl and looked to have snatched the class lead as the day reached its final few stages until a late problem cost him four minutes. Stohl could still not afford to breathe easy though as Crocker and Trelles both remained within a minute of the Carisma driver. At the end of the day Stohl was eleventh overall, Crocker 13th and Trelles 14th.
Stage winners – Rally New Zealand – Leg two:
SS9 Waipu Gorge Richard Burns 6 mins 32.8secs
SS10 Brooks Richard Burns 9 mins 49.9secs
SS11 Paparoa Station Richard Burns 6 mins 18.5secs
SS12 Parahi Richard Burns 34 mins 04.5secs
SS13 Cassidy Colin McRae 11 mins 35.9secs
SS14 Batley Colin McRae 11 mins 09.0secs
SS15 Waipu Gorge 2 Marcus Gronholm 6 mins 33.9secs
SS16 Brooks 2 Marcus Gronholm 9 mins 56.8secs
SS17 Paparoa Station 2 Marcus Gronholm 6 mins 24.5secs
Rally Leaders - Leg Two:
1. Marcus Gronholm Peugeot 206 WRC 2hr 59mins 58.6secs +00mins 00.0secs
2. Colin McRae Ford Focus WRC 3hr 00mins 21.5secs +00mins 22.9secs
3. Richard Burns Subaru Impreza WRC2000 3hr 00mins 36.0secs +00mins 37.4secs
4. Carlos Sainz Ford Focus WRC 3hr 01mins 08.8secs +01mins 10.2secs
5 Juha Kankkunen Subaru Impreza WRC 3hr 01mins 37.6secs +01mins 39.0secs
7. Petter Solberg
Ford Focus WRC 3hr 02mins 48.9secs +02mins 50.3secs
6 Kenneth Eriksson Hyundai Accent WRC 3hr 03mins 05.4secs +03mins 06.8secs
8. Tommi Makinen Mitsubishi Lancer Evo6 3hr 03mins 13.9secs +03mins 15.3secs
9. Alister McRae Hyundai Accent WRC 3hr 03mins 27.5secs +03mins 28.9secs
10. Possum Bourne Subaru Impreza WRC98 3hr 05mins 54.0secs +05mins 55.4secs
12. Geoff Argyle Mitsubishi Lancer 3hr 09mins 56.7secs +09mins 58.1secs
19. Bruce Herbert Mitsubishi Lancer 3hr 13mins 54.6secs +13mins 56.0secs
Rtd. Toshiro Arai Subaru Impreza
Rtd Didier Auriol SEAT Cordoba WRC accident – stage sixteen
Rtd Freddy Loix Mitsubishi Carisma GT withdrawn – stage thirteen
Rtd Francois Delecour Peugeot 206 WRC gearbox – stage ten
Rtd Toni Gardemeister SEAT Cordoba WRC accident - stage one
11. Manfred Stohl Mitsubishi Carisma 3hr 09mins 44.4secs +09mins 45.8secs
13. Cody Crocker Subaru Impreza 3hr 10mins 05.4secs +10mins 06.8secs
14. Gustavo Trelles Subaru Impreza 3hr 10mins 35.2secs +10mins 36.6secs
21. Hamed Al Wahaibi Subaru Impreza 3hr 14mins 50.0secs +14mins 51.4secs
[Times courtesy Mitsubishi Motors]