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McRae leads the Acropolis Rally after leg one.

Meanwhile at Peugeot Didier Auriol's Acropolis Rally lasted for just a few kilometres, because the Frenchman's 206 WRC hit clutch problems in SS1 and he was forced to retire. Team-mate Marcus Grönholm hit a rock in SS3, holing his car's sump and allowing oil to leak from the engine. When oil pressure dropped to zero, the reigning world champion joined Auriol on the retirements list. The sole remaining 206 WRC of Harri Rovanperä has had handling problems but has been reliable otherwise.

Marcus Grönholm was quick on this morning's first pair of stages and he entered SS3 in second overall, but then he holed the car's sump on a rock and retired with no oil pressure. Didier Auriol didn't get that far, thanks to his early clutch failure in SS1. Harri Rovanperä had a puncture this morning and lost time, but he recovered towards the top ten as the afternoon progressed. The private 206 WRC of Gilles Panizzi, meanwhile, benefited from a good road position to hold a points placing for much of the day.

Marcus Grönholm said: ''It was a rock in the middle of the road, in quite a fast place, and I couldn't avoid it because that would have meant going off the road. And it holed the sump. I really think this one's not Peugeot's fault - it's just really bad luck. For sure my championship hopes are finished now - all we can do is try to get points for Peugeot from now on.''

Didier Auriol added: ''After about one kilometre the clutch started to slip and after a couple more, it went altogether. I'm very disappointed - it's turning into a really hard season for everyone at Peugeot and we just want a bit of good luck.''

At Hyundai both Accent WRC2s have been hit by turbo boost problems today. Alister McRae lost boost when his car's wastegate stuck in SS1, while Kenneth Eriksson had to complete much of SS3 and all of SS4 with no boost. The Swede had also struggled with no power steering for the same stages.

Alister McRae's hopes of a clean run were dashed in today's first stage when his Accent started losing turbo boost. Even though the problem was cured at first service, the Scot subsequently lost further time when he was held up by Toshihiro Arai first when he punctured and then when the Japanese driver's car caught fire. These difficulties and Eriksson's turbo problems dropped both Hyundais well outside the top ten by early afternoon.

Alister McRae said: ''It's very frustrating because we did 200km of testing last weekend with no major problems and then the moment the rally starts, this happens. When the car's running well it's clearly got potential but we need to get reliability sorted if we're going to capitalise on that.''

At Skoda the two Skoda Octavia WRCs of Armin Schwarz and Bruno Thiry have been generally reliable today, although the German did suffer two punctures in SS1 and then heavy steering in SS4.

Armin Schwarz has kept his Octavia on the fringes of the top ten today, while Bruno Thiry lost time in Kenneth Eriksson's dust in SS4 and held 17th with just today's last stage remaining.

Armin Schwarz said: ''It was so hard with the steering to return the wheel to centre. My hands were nearly dropping off by the end of the stage, but at least I'm still going.''



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