French manufacturers Citroen and Peugeot are dominating the fourth round of the FIA World Rally Championship, the Rallye Catalunya-Costa Brava, which continued in northern Spain today.
Local Citroen driver Jesus Puras occupied the top position, until he retired with low fuel pressure leaving the lead to his French team-mate Philippe Bugalski. But the Peugeots of Didier Auriol and Gilles Panizzi remain in touch, ahead of four-times world champion Tommi Mäkinen.
Again encouraged by sunny skies, huge crowds flocked to the fast asphalt roads south of Tarragona to catch the action. Too big in fact, SS12 was cancelled due to volume of spectators present on the final stage of the second leg.
In contrast to yesterday, the roads around Tarragona were much more abrasive and, while still dry, posed a threat to tyre wear and tear in ever increasing temperatures. Michelin is however winning the tyre war with all the leading crews, as Pirelli's highest runner is currently fifth.
On asphalt rallies, brake cooling is another significant factor because, typically, the braking materials can run at between 700 and 750 degrees Centigrade. Without effective cooling, performance deteriorates significantly.
Fastest time on this morning's opening stage increased Jesus Puras's overnight lead but he spun and stalled on the second test, handing team-mate Philippe Bugalski another sniff of victory.
The Frenchman responded, setting fastest time on the first run through the day's longest stage to grab the lead. Throughout their battle, the two Xsara WRC's have pulled further clear of the Peugeots of Didier Auriol and Gilles Panizzi.
The main Xsara WRC's problem today has been stopping: Philippe Bugalski complained of a long brake pedal on this morning's opening stage, and the problem recurred during the day's longest test.
''I'm pleased to be in the fight for victory but it's very hard to have confidence when the brake problems are continuing,” confirmed Bugalski. “The team has been trying everything to fix the brakes but so far, it keeps coming back. I know I could push a little harder if we solve this.''