Meanwhile the Ford Focus WRC01s of Carlos Sainz, Colin McRae and Francois Delecour have been basically reliable today. McRae's only mechanical glitch occurred at the lunchtime regroup, when an ECU problem meant the car would not restart and he and Nicky Grist had to push it into the area. The problem was soon rectified by Ford engineers, however. Delecour, meanwhile, broke his gear lever when recovering from a small accident in SS3, while Sainz suffered a broken rear shock absorber in today's final stage.
Sainz has lost time through running second on the road (first after Tommi Mäkinen retired), but Colin McRae has kept in touch with the leaders. The Scot's pace has been close to third-placed Richard Burns throughout today's stages, and he ended the day in fourth. Francois Delecour has been able to regularly match his team-mates, and the Frenchman overhauled McRae to grab third during the last pair of stages today.
Colin McRae said: ''It's been going fine today, but it's always a fine balance between performance and keeping your tyres in half-decent condition. I think we've found that on most stages today. The roads are definitely getting better, so I reckon the ideal position for tomorrow would be third or fourth, but not too far behind the leader. I think where we are is near-perfect.''
Francois Delecour added: ''I was so angry after going off that I broke the gear lever having an attack! But I'm happy enough with today - the car has felt good and I haven't really been pushing at the limit, so our speed is encouraging.''
Carlos Sainz continued: ''The position on the road is making a difference, because when you get loose gravel you get more wheelspin and then your tyres wear out more quickly. Tomorrow should be the same so hopefully we can make some of the time back.''
At Mitsubishi the three Mitsubishi Lancer Evolutions have been reliable today, with only Freddy Loix reporting any mechanical concerns. The Belgian felt that his car was hard to turn into corners in SS2, a characteristic he attributed to a mixture of differential and overheating tyres. But the examples of Tommi Mäkinen and Katsuhiko Taguchi ran without major problems.
World championship leader Tommi Mäkinen lost a lot of time through his position on the road this morning, although clouting a rock and bending his car's right-front suspension in SS2 didn't help matters. The Finn was attempting to minimise the time damage in SS4 when he slid off the road and out of the event. Team-mate Freddy Loix was running further down the order and he moved ahead of Mäkinen prior to the four-times champion's retirement. Loix held fifth as crews went back to Limassol this evening. Katsuhiko Taguchi spent time getting used to 'aggressive' differential settings that he'd borrowed from Tommi Mäkinen, and the Japanese driver had a few half-spins as he acclimatised
Freddy Loix said: ''The car didn't feel so good under braking this morning but it's basically been okay. Tommi retiring is disappointing for him but now I've got to score some points for the team. I think I've found a good pace and we'll see what happens tomorrow.''
At Hyundai Kenneth Eriksson enjoyed a largely troublefree run in his Accent WRC2 today, until a loss of turbo boost in the last stage cost him three minutes. Alister McRae had even more bad luck - the Scot punctured two tyres in SS1 before another deflated in SS2. He suspected that the car's geometry had been damaged during SS1, because later in the day his front tyres went through to the canvas. Piero Liatti's Accent was generally well behaved until the day's last stage, when engine problems forced the Italian to retire.
Kenneth Eriksson made full use of swept-clean roads and good reliability to push his Hyundai into second place from today's opening stage. Although his was subsequently passed by Richard Burns, Eriksson was able to swap seconds with the Briton and rival Colin McRae. However, turbo boost problems in SS6 dropped him to eighth. Alister McRae's punctures kept the Scot outside of the top 20, while Piero Liatti concentrated on building more gravel experience of the Accent and the Italian rarely challenged the top times. Engine problems forced him out on today's last stage, however.