Hyundai's two drivers have found it difficult to acclimatise to the new-specification Accent in the treacherously slippery conditions. However, they both held positions on the fringes of the top ten for most of the day.
Kenneth Eriksson said: ''I had three punctures this morning but the ATS system cut in and worked well. I had to back off just a little. The roads are getting slower after every car so there's not much that we can do. It's bad enough for us - I don't want to think what it's like for guys in two-wheel drive cars!''
Alister McRae added: ''The problem is that the stages from now on favour the people running first on the road again, so we never get a chance to narrow the gap. It's just going to get bigger and bigger. The car's definitely better than before but it's hard to accurately gauge how big a step forward we've made.''
Both Skoadas retired with technical problems before completing a proper stage. Bruno Thiry's example was forced out by electrical failure on the fuel pump on the road section from Baltar superspecial to parc ferme last night. Armin Schwarz's Octavia retired with clutch failure on the way to this morning's first stage.
Neither Octavia completed a full stage, although both drivers believed that the treacherously slippery conditions could have suited the car.
Armin Schwarz said: ''It's bitterly disappointing. At the superspecial last night I thought I had a lot of wheelspin but it was actually the clutch slipping a bit. The team changed the clutch cylinder last night but as we've discovered this morning, that didn't cure the problem.''
Bruno Thiry continued: ''The car started to misfire a bit on the way back to parc ferme and then it just stopped. I'm gutted, because we set a top ten time at the superspecial and I thought the muddy conditions would have given us a chance of a good result. We just have to recover and regroup in time for Catalunya later this month.''
In the FIA Teams Cup section for privateers, Finn Pasi Hagstrom built up a comfortable advantage over Pole Janusz Kulig's Ford Focus. But the top privateer overall is young Swede Daniel Carlsson, who held 14th overall for much of the day.
Suspension damage forced out Group N leader Gabriel Pozzo and multiple category champion Gustavo Trelles, allowing reigning title-holder Manfred Stohl to lead the class.
Starters: 94 cars (59 Group A + 35 Group N) started the rally
Retirements: Thiry (B), Schwarz (D), Arai (JPN), C.McRae (GB), Lopes (P), Bakashab (SA), Kuzai (PL), Trelles (ROU9, Pozzo (RA), Blomqvist (S) + 17 non seeded drivers
Saturday 10 March