Solberg was happier on the wider roads through this opening leg, feeling they suited his car better. The Norwegian driver said he still had some speed in reserve. Makinen was delighted with the changes he made to the timing on the differentials of his Impreza between the Acropolis Rally and this one. The four-times world champion's day started out well, he was third overall until steering problems slowed him on the last stage of the day.
Solberg said: ''In the narrow sections of the stages I was playing with the differential settings, the car's handling is good, but still not perfect on those roads. Third is good for me, but there is still more to come.''
''I was thinking for a long time about what was wrong with the car in Greece, then it came to me that we should try these changes to the differential,'' noted Makinen, ''The car felt better at shakedown yesterday, and has been very good today. I'm much happier with the way it's running, except for the ALS trouble in the last two stages. We clipped a rock about eight kilometres into the last stage which broke the steering - it felt like the longest stage of my life.''
All three Citroen
drivers felt there was something amiss with the handling of their Xsara WRCs through the opening leg. Alterations were made to the mapping of the differentials at the service park between the two loops of stages.
Loeb led the Citroen
attack, but admitted he had been too cautious in SS1. He stepped his pace up through the remaining three stages and ended the leg in fifth place. Colin McRae said his car was understeering into corners and then oversteering on the exit. The Scot was also concerned at how rutted the roads had become this morning. Carlos Sainz was 15th after the first loop of stages, but managed to pull some time back through the afternoon.
Sainz said: ''The car feels a little bit wild when I get on the throttle. There's something not right with the differential settings, we'll work on it - but it was very important to get some time back so we could get a better position on the road for tomorrow.''
McRae added: ''On a rally like this you really need a neutral car, ours isn't right now. We made some changes which helped a little, but there's some more work to do. The ruts have been terrible, the only way to get through the stages is just to stick in them. If you come out of the ruts then the car's sliding and you're losing time. It's not a great way to drive a rally.''
Loeb continued: ''When the grip is good, the car's working well, but when we get to the loose gravel then it's sliding too much. On the first stage this morning, I wanted to be careful to make sure I got through it, but I was too careful, I lost too much time. The changes I made to the car really helped this afternoon. After the first stage this morning I didn't think it was possible to be in this position.''
Francois Duval's Ford Focus RS WRC03 suffered hydraulic problems five kilometres from the end of the second stage, meaning he had to switch to the manual gearshift system. The sister car of Markko Martin suffered the same problem on the fourth stage. The 2002 version of Mikko Hirvonen
ran without fault.
Martin admitted he was finding it hard to find the right rhythm through the early part of the day, but dropped more time with the hydraulic problem on the second run at the longest stage. Duval came out of the first stage happy, but towards the end of the second test the car was jammed in third gear. He stopped and switched to the manual shift. Hirvonen enjoyed a clean run through the opening leg.