WRC »

McRae holds on to the lead at the end of leg two.

At Citroen after Thomas Radström's retirement with electrical problems late yesterday evening, Citroen's efforts have been focused on the remaining Xsara WRC of Philippe Bugalski. The Frenchman's car has been reliable today.

Philippe Bugalski inched into the top ten when Markko Martin retired this morning, and the multiple French champion has consolidated that position throughout the day. He was particularly pleased to set respectable times in the middle loop of three stages, since he'd conducted his recce of those tests when he was ill.

Philippe Bugalski said: ''The middle three stages were like new ones to me, because I was so ill when I did the recce there. So I thought my times were quite good. The car has been better today than yesterday - we've made some changes to the handling and it's not giving me the same understeer entering corners and oversteer exiting corners that it did earlier.''

Meanwhile at Skoda the two Skoda Octavia WRCs of Armin Schwarz and Bruno Thiry have been generally reliable today, although both drivers were less than happy at their suspension set-ups and tyre choices on this morning's first pair of stages.

Armin Schwarz has continued to keep his Octavia just outside the top ten, but the German was unable to stop either the charging François Delecour or Philippe Bugalski this morning. Bruno Thiry's Octavia is two places further back in 13th, as the Belgian continues to fight with Simon Jean-Joseph's privately-run Peugeot.

Armin Schwarz said: ''Our tyres this morning had a very hard, rigid construction and we lost a lot of traction as a result. There was nothing we could do to keep Philippe or François behind.''

Bruno Thiry added: ''The car was hard to drive on today's first two stages but at least it's been basically reliable. We need a few more retirements tomorrow if we're going to score some points, but with the repeated stages anything is still possible. This rally still has a long way to go.''

At Hyundai Kenneth Eriksson was forced to retire his Accent WRC2 on the road section from service to this morning's first stage, when the car suffered turbo failure. Alister McRae, meanwhile, broke a driveshaft in SS9. The flailing shaft caused hydraulic fluid to leak and start a small fire, and McRae stopped to removed the shaft, put out the fire and reconnect the hydraulic pipes. He then had to contest two further stages with only three-wheel drive.

Kenneth Eriksson had hoped to gain data as Hyundai tries to solve the turbo problems that blighted its efforts yesterday, but the Swede was forced out before today's opening stage with another turbo failure. Alister McRae had moved towards the top ten but he then lost all hope of a top-ten finish when he broke a driveshaft.

Kenneth Eriksson said: ''We had turbo boost problems for a lot of yesterday and we wanted to check some data this morning, but on the road section we had another turbo failure so we had to stop. I'm disappointed because we showed in Cyprus that the car can be competitive, but our problems here haven't allowed us to repeat that form. All we can do is regroup and come back for Finland.''



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