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McRae leads the Acropolis Rally after leg one.

Colin McRae said: ''It's going pretty well. The damper problem meant that I had to take it a bit easier over the rougher stuff but otherwise it was fine. The stages are a bit rougher in places than we expected - probably because so many cars went through the stages after we'd done our recce.''

Francois Delecour added: ''The pain is bad but I'd rather have that than feel like I did when I was on the tablets this morning. I was practically asleep on the road sections, and I couldn't be precise in the stages - that's why we had the puncture, because I hit something. It's hard work but hopefully I can continue and work towards the points.''

At Citroen the two Xsara WRCs have been generally reliable on their first day of gravel WRC competition. Philippe Bugalski lost time with a brake problem on this morning's first pair of stages, and he is less than satisfied with the car's handling (he thinks it is understeering too much). Radström enjoyed a troublefree day until SS6 when he had an electrical failure forcing him to retire.

Thomas Radström freely admitted that he'd been too cautious this morning, but the Swede stepped up his pace in SS3 to hold down a top ten position, just outside the points placings as he entered today's final stage. Team-mate Philippe Bugalski lost time with brake and handling worries, and he threw away further seconds in SS4 when he spun, but the multiple French champion still occupied ninth, just over half a minute behind Radström, after SS4.

Thomas Radström said: ''It's hard for me to find the right pace because I haven't done a proper rally since the Swedish earlier this year. I was certainly too cautious in the opening couple of stages. The car was behaving very well, though - to retire on SS6 was very dissappointing.''

Philippe Bugalski added: ''The brake problem was difficult because the pedal went right to the floor from the start of the second stage. But in general, I'm pretty happy. When the car is running it's clearly quite fast and if I can get the handling a bit more to my liking, I'm sure we can improve further.''

Over at Mitsubishi Tommi Mäkinen felt his Lancer Evolution's suspension was too soft for today's opening stage, but it's been reliable otherwise. Freddy Loix's front brakes overheated in SS3 and SS4, leaving the Belgian to cope with oversteer entering almost every corner.

Tommi Mäkinen has lost chunks of time today as he struggled with loose gravel on the road. The Finn felt he was struggling to accurately gauge speed while not destroying his tyres. He dropped out of the top ten as a result, and was 12th by early afternoon. Team-mate Freddy Loix admitted he'd been too cautious in today's first pair of stages, but as he tried to step up his pace he encountered front brake problems.

Tommi Makinen said: ''I don't know what more we can do - there's a hell of a lot of loose gravel and I'm concerned that if I push too hard it'll chew my tyres. I thought after SS1 that if we'd fixed the suspension it would be possible to go more quickly but the gaps have stayed the same.''

Freddy Loix noted: ''I thought I was looking after my tyres in SS1 but when I got to the end they were in far too good a condition!''



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