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Gronholm leads in Cyprus.

Kenneth Eriksson said: ''The rally is seriously hard work - the heat and hard roads just kill the tyres and in today's middle loop of stages, we had virtually no tread for the second of the pair.''

Alister McRae continued: ''I wish I could start this rally again, to be honest. The problems this morning have cost us a lot of time and while it's good to see Kenneth up there in the leading positions, I know that I could do the same if I had a clean run. I guess all we can hope for now is a bit more good luck over the next couple of days.''

Over at Skoda Armin Schwarz's Octavia WRC hit numerous problems during this morning's stages. The German had to cope with three punctures and centre differential glitches during the first pair of tests, and then his gearbox came loose in SS4 and started to activate the engine cut-off when it wasn't wanted. Bruno Thiry, meanwhile, has spent most of today adjusting his car's suspension to make it more predictable over the bumps.

Armin Schwarz is a previous winner of the Cyprus Rally but the German hit mechanical problems this morning and dropped outside of the top ten. His team-mate Bruno Thiry fared little better - punctures hurt the Belgian's efforts and dropped him to 16th. Both Skodas moved back towards the top ten this afternoon, however.

Schwarz said: ''The differential problem hurt me badly because it instantly resulted in more wheelspin, which really wrecked my tyres. We've had problems but we are still going and I think many of the people in front could still hit trouble. It's that sort of rally.''

Bruno Thiry noted: ''I don't feel I can trust the car over the bumps and under braking. It seems to keep trying to go sideways. But I've been working with the engineers to improve things and the back end is definitely better. If we can sort the front out then I'm sure we can go quicker and push towards the points.''

Of the rest mechanical problems and accidents have decimated the entry in the FIA Teams Cup for Privateers, of which the Cyprus Rally is the third round. Pasi Hagstrom (Team Toyota Castrol Finland) and Henrik Lundgaard (Team Toyota Castrol Denmark) both hit problems. Hagstrom virtually passed out at the lunchtime service through heat exhaustion, while Lundgaard didn't even make it that far - he retired while trying to reach Pafos on two wheel rims. Other Teams Cup crews to encounter difficulties included former world champion Stig Blomqvist, whose Group N Mitsubishi retired after shearing wheel nuts, and Ioannis Papdimitriou, who rolled his Peugeot 206. His car then burnt out, but it wasn't a unique problem - Hamed Al Wahaibi's Subaru had done exactly the same earlier in the day.

Hagstrom still leads the category, though, ahead of Frenchman Frederic Dor. In the Group N category for more standard cars, Uruguay's multiple category champion Gustavo Trelles holds the class lead. His task was made easier when his main rival Gabriel Pozzo lost time with fuel starvation problems.

Rally Statistics:

Starters: 80 cars (49 Group A + 31 Group N) started the rally.

Retirements: Rovanpera (FIN), Mäkinen (FIN), Solberg (N), Liatti (I), Panizzi + other 19 drivers

Today: Friday 1 June:

Leg 1 started from Limassol at 08h00 and covered 520.68km, including 137.98km on 6 special stages.

Tomorrow: Saturday 2 June:

Leg 2 starts from Limassol at 08h00 and covers 375.72km, including 105.96km on 8 special stages. The first car is expected to arrive in Limassol at 18h39.

Weather forecast: Staying hot and dry

Stage by stage summary:

SS1 Platres-Saittas (11.48kms)
1. Solberg (N) Subaru 9m 31.4
2. Eriksson (S) Hyundai 9m 36.7
3. Burns (GB) Subaru 9m 37.1

SS2 Foini-Koilinia (30.29kms)
1. Grönholm (FIN) Peugeot 27m 51.0
2. Eriksson (S) Hyundai 28m 02.0
3. McRae (GB) Ford 28m 06.2

Leaders after SS2:
1. Gronholm (FIN) Peugeot 37m 30.0
2. Eriksson (S) Hyundai 37m 38.7
3. Burns (GB) Subaru 37m 45.6

SS3 Simou-Stavros (35.57kms)
1. Gronholm (FIN) Peugeot 31m 13.0
2. Burns (GB) Subaru 31m 15.1
3. Eriksson (S) Hyundai 31m 19.0

Leaders after SS3:
1. Gronholm (FIN) Peugeot 1h 08m 43.0
2. Eriksson (S) Hyundai 1h 08m 57.7
3. Burns (GB) Subaru 1h 09m 00.7

SS4 Sell..Staktou-Panagia (19.29kms)
1. Solberg (N) Subaru 16m 37.6
2. Delecour (F) Ford 16m 58.6
3. Sainz (E) Ford 16m 59.8

Leaders after SS4:
1. Grönholm (FIN) Peugeot 1h 25m 52.5
2. Burns (GB) Subaru 1h 26m 00.7
3. Eriksson (S) Hyundai 1h 26m 07.6

SS5 Prastio-Pachna (11.06kms):
1. Delecour (F) Ford 6m 40.2
2. Burns (GB) Subaru 6m 41.8
3. McRae (GB) Ford 6m 44.8

Leaders after SS5:
1. Grönholm (FIN) Peugeot 1h 32m 42.1
2. Burns (GB) Subaru 1h 32m 42.5
3. McRae (GB) Ford 1h 32m 53.5

SS6 Foini-Koilinia 2 (30.29kms)
1. Delecour (F) Ford 27m 36.8
2. Grönholm (FIN) Peugeot 27m 41.1
3. McRae (GB) Ford 27m 44.4

Leaders after SS6:
1. Gronholm (FIN) Peugeot 2h 00m 23.2
2. Burns (GB) Subaru +05.7
3. Delecour (F) Ford +11.4
4. C.McRae (GB) Ford +14.7
5. Loix (B) Mitsubishi +1m 12.1
6. Sainz (E) Ford +1m 25.7
7. Auriol (F) Peugeot +1m 52.0
8. Eriksson (S) Hyundai +2m 36.8
9. Arai (J) Subaru +2m 59.4
10. Schwarz (D) Skoda +4m 00.6



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