Auriol however was not pleased with his car and on the next stage, a 46 kilometre test through Resolfen providing the longest stage of the entire rally, the French veteran's Cordoba dropped onto just two cylinders and he instantly dropped out of the points, behind both Francois Delecour and Juha Kankkunen.
There were no such problems for McRae who won his second consecutive stage by a whole one second from the charging Burns who had now clawed his way back to within 15 seconds of Gronholm in the overall classification after another circumspect effort from the Peugeot man which netted him fourth place on the stage behind Delecour but ahead of nearest rivals Makinen and Sainz, both of whom were not happy with the handling of their cars.
Consistently impressive in the opening three stages of the day was the third Subaru Impreza of Petter Solberg
who had vaulted from an overnight position of 18th to 14th after putting in consistently quick times. Ninth on SS11, the young star had more than a minute to make up before he could overhaul Toni Gardemeister in the slowest of the remaining factory Cordoba's but he, like Burns, was tackling each stage with tremendous confidence and both were a joy to watch despite the miserable conditions.
Stage twelve saw the cars return to Rhoela for another crack and it was here that the entire complexion of the rally changed for as McRae was trying to negotiate a quick right-hander that cut back deceptively on itself, he put one wheel of the Focus off the track and was thrown into a ditch were the car proceeded to barrel roll before coming to rest right side up in a blinding cloud of smoke. Valiantly both McRae and co-driver Nicky Grist attempted to carry on but the radiator and coolers were too badly damaged and the car was officially retired little more than a mile on from the accident scene.
All this drama left Gronholm in the lead but again Burns cut another chunk out of his advantage as he romped to his second win of the day ahead of the impressive Solberg and Kankkunen in a Subaru clean sweep. Gronholm and Delecour were fourth and fifth but the team formation was broken by privateer Markko Martin in the Team Sweden Toyota Corolla who finished the stage in a fine sixth position and continued to hold down a top ten place in the first non-factory machine.
The final forest stage of the day was set around the picturesque Margam Park stately grounds and once again it was Burns who was in control, winning by a comfortable seven seconds from Sainz who was still not at all happy with the performance of his Focus. Burns also erased the three-second deficit to Gronholm who continued to take things easy and cruised to fifth fastest, dropping to second overall behind Burns in the process.
Sainz' good run brought him back ahead of the troubled Makinen by just one second in their ongoing battle for fourth while third fastest time for Kankkunen gave him some breathing room in fifth place ahead of Delecour and Panizzi, both of whom have blown hot and cold throughout the first two days of competition.
Makinen was lucky to be in the rally at all on a day where he left the road no less than three times in a car that simply would not behave how Tommi wanted it to, suspension gremlins being blamed as the reason behind Makinen's unusual erratic form.
Of course slippery roads contributed to the amount of spins seen amongst the leading runners and there was no sign of a let up in the rain during the day as driver after driver found themselves just overstepping the mark on at least one occasion.
One driver who wasn't suffering from the conditions was Estonia's Markko Martin who continued to hold down eighth overall ahead of Auriol who soldiered on manfully despite having a sick engine for much of the day.