The second leg of Rally Australia again saw the top drivers juggling their positions in preparation for tomorrow's crucial final leg.
Today's frantic action saw Richard Burns initially capitalise on his overnight fourth place to charge into a comfortable lead, before tactics again appeared on the final forest stage of the day.
Driver's adjusted their pace to try and determine optimum starting positions for tomorrow's third and final leg. The Sotico plantation special stage (formerly Bunnings) being where the cleaning effect of the 'ball-bearing' road surface will be most prominent.
With both Fords now out of the event, Tommi Makinen has a golden opportunity to extend his title hopes into the final event of the year. However the Finn says he's not thinking that far ahead just yet.
“We're just trying to win this rally,” he said. “We've got to get our tactics just right. Obviously my championship chances have improved over the past 24 hours but I still need Richard and Marcus to have problems if I'm really going to have any hope.”
Makinen's biggest problem was that his road position today left him unable to react to other drivers' actions. “I've got to try and guess what they're going to do,” he admitted. He had planned to pace himself against Juha Kankkunen but that idea was destroyed when his fellow Finn crashed out of the event - leaving Makinen to run first tomorrow.
World Championship leader Marcus Gronholm tried a little too hard on Wellington Dam today, overshoting a junction, but that would be the Finn's only real mistake.“Tactics are ultimately going to decide this rally,” he later confirmed.
Team mate Francois Delecour found that running second on the road was no great advantage, but was still happy with his overall performance. “A lot of these stages are ones I last drove in 1993,” he said, “so I'm fairly satisfied.” Team mate Gilles Panizzi, however, is still a long way off the lead - but has been improving his pace all day.
Richard Burns set the fastest time on the first stage - immediately taking the rally lead. However, he then had to play the tactics game again to ensure that he could again reap the benefit of clear roads in Sotico tomorrow.