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Rain drops keep falling...

Harri Rovanpera added: ''Our mud tyres work about 50 percent of the time but when they don't, the car is nervous. In the slow corners it's not too bad but once I get into third or fourth gear then it's difficult to push hard. Of course I'm happy to be involved in another fight for the lead but the conditions are so bad that I'm not even thinking about a victory.''

The three works Ford Focus WRC01s of Colin McRae, Carlos Sainz and Francois Delecour have performed without major problems today, although the latter driver did complain of harsh brakes during the morning's stages.

Carlos Sainz has made good use of running third on the road to stay in touch with the leaders today, but Colin McRae has been hampered by a lower starting position and the Scot has had to dig deep to keep even a points placing in sight. He finally retired in SS8 for engine problems. François Delecour struggled to find a good feeling in his Focus's brakes this morning but he recovered to hold a top-ten placing.

Carlos Sainz noted: ''These are easily the most difficult conditions I've ever seen in Portugal, in fact they're among the hardest I've ever seen. It's been a battle just to keep the car on the road, without even thinking of pushing for a time. Organisers were right to cancel the stages, because there's a safety issue. If you work out that the ambulance cannot get through the stage then it's not safe to run at all.''

Colin McRae who has retired said: ''It's not really been a competition because of the difference between the first few crews and those running further back. The car's like a sledge when it hits the muck - I'd say you're only 80 percent in control of it half the time.''

The Subaru Impreza WRC2001s of Richard Burns and Markko Martin have been well-behaved mechanically. But the team's fourth car, driven by Japanese star Toshihiro Arai, was forced into retirement when an alternator belt failed and the battery went flat whilst Petter Solberg retired after the finish of SS8 with a broken suspension.

Richard Burns has fought hard to improve his position, in the hope of securing a better road order placing for tomorrow's stages. The Englishman had hauled himself into a points position by early afternoon. The team's two young stars, Petter Solberg and Markko Martin, have found the conditions particularly difficult. Solberg spun, stalled and broke a wheel rim in SS4 and finally retired after SS8.
The fourth works car of Toshihiro Arai retired with a flat battery this morning.

Richard Burns told the media: ''When we get a level playing field - like we did in the second run over SS2 - then we can match Tommi's pace. But otherwise, we're just fighting to keep the deficit to a respectable level. In some places the ruts are so deep that we're worried about the amount of gravel being poured into the front of the engine bay.''

Petter Solberg added: ''It's hard to learn much in conditions like these but I guess it's down to experience. I've been trying to stay in the ruts of the guys in front but looking at the times, it doesn't seem to be working.''

At Hyundai Kenneth Eriksson was relieved to see SS6 and SS7 cancelled after he noticed a noise coming from his Accent WRC's propshaft after SS5. The Swede had lost no time in that stage and he was able to coast through the longer-than-planned road sections. The team effected repairs at the next service. Alister McRae felt his suspension was too hard for today's opening three tests, and the Scot was unable to detect much improvement in a softer set-up because he punctured his right-front tyre in SS5. He'd also suffered poor visibility in SS4 when a branch lodged itself under one of the Accent's windscreen wipers.



Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Francois Delecour - Ford Focus WRC
Petter Solberg celebrates at the 2007 Race of Champions
Yazeed Al Rajhi, Michal Orr (Ford Fiesta RRC, #31 Yazeed Racing)
Yazeed Al Rajhi, Michal Orr (Ford Fiesta RRC, #31 Yazeed Racing)
Yazeed Al Rajhi, Michal Orr (Ford Fiesta RRC, #31 Yazeed Racing)
Yazeed Al Rajhi, Michal Orr (Ford Fiesta RRC, #31 Yazeed Racing)
Yazeed Al Rajhi, Michal Orr (Ford Fiesta RRC, #31 Yazeed Racing)
Yazeed Al Rajhi, Michal Orr (Ford Fiesta RRC, #31 Yazeed Racing)
Yazeed Al Rajhi, Michal Orr (Ford Fiesta RRC, #31 Yazeed Racing)
Yazeed Al Rajhi, Michal Orr (Ford Fiesta RRC, #31 Yazeed Racing)
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)
Yazeed Al Rajhi, Michal Orr (Ford Fiesta RRC, #31 Yazeed Racing)
Yazeed Al Rajhi, Michal Orr (Ford Fiesta RRC, #31 Yazeed Racing)
Jacques Villeneuve testing his Albatec Racing Peugeot [Pic credit: Gary Hawkins/Ebrey Photographic]
Jacques Villeneuve in his Albatec Racing Peugeot [Pic credit: Gary Hawkins/Ebrey Photographic]
Joan `Nani` Roma / Michel Périn. MINI ALL4 Racing. Monster Energy X-raid Team. Dakar Rally winners 2014 [Pic credit: MINI/BMW]

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