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Burns charge to be in vain?

Harri Rovanpera completed the top ten at the end of the day and is more than a minute clear of the surviving Hyundai of Alister McRae who spent the second half of the day trying to cure an alarming oil pressure problem. At one point McRae and co-driver David Senior resorted to using a T-Shirt to try and block the leak until the car got to the service area but even after the mechanics fixed the problem, the younger McRae had to drive the Margam stage with a broken sump guard.

Gardemeister also had an interesting day on his way to an overnight position of twelfth as on SS10 he suddenly found the bonnet of the SEAT obscuring his view entirely after flying open and smashing the windscreen. After Gardemeister had stopped to put some water in the car, he and co-driver Paavo Lukander failed to fasten the bonnet properly with the inevitable result costing the pair a possible top ten overnight slot.

Petter Solberg came out of the forests in a very respectable 13th position, Subaru's latest star having only been outside the top ten on the opening stage of the day in his first experience of the Welsh weather while Armin Schwarz plugged on gamely in the leading Skoda in 14th ahead of Henning Solberg's Toyota and the final factory runner, Luis Climent.

Manfred Stohl leads Group N by a comfortable three minutes over Kenneth Backlund and Olli Harkki as Gustavo Trelles hit mechanical problems and dropped down the order. British hopes were also given a boost when both Vauxhall Astra kit cars made their way into the top 20 after stage 12. However both Mark Higgins and Neil Wearden struck trouble on the Margam Park stage and dropped back to 22nd and 28th overall respectively as the cars returned to Cardiff for the second visit to the 2.43 km Superspecial.

Conditions this time by were arguably worse than they had been on Thursday evening and many of the leading runners erred on the side of caution on a stage where very little time could be gained. Indeed the top 20 overall remained the same as it at the end of SS13 as less than half a minute separated the top 25 runners.

One driver who threw caution to the wind in the final head to head test was Petter Solberg who emerged from the gloom a full four seconds quicker than anyone else to take his first stage win of the day while Burns, Kankkunen, the oft delayed Tapio Laukkanen and Schwarz completed the top five.

Makinen was only seventh and Sainz eighth while Gronholm lost a lot of time with a lurid slide on one of the courses hairpins and could only manage 17th quickest time.

Burns holds a secure 20 second lead over Gronholm as the cars head into the final day of competition but unless the Peugeot strikes trouble it looks as though it will really be a bridge too far for the Englishman who was simply sublime all day in the dark blue Impreza. However as this event has shown in the past, the championship is not over until the winning car has crossed the line and Burns will still be going flat out on Sunday to put the win beyond doubt and put some pressure on the Peugeot team who simply have to get Gronholm to the finish.





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Bjorn Waldegard [Pic credit: Race Retro / www.historicmotorsportshow.com]
Yazeed Al Rajhi, Michal Orr (Ford Fiesta RRC, #31 Yazeed Racing)
Yazeed Al Rajhi, Michal Orr (Ford Fiesta RRC, #31 Yazeed Racing)
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