Outgoing FIA World Rally Champion Marcus Grönholm continues to lead the final round of the 2001 series, the Network Q Rally of Great Britain, which continued today in Wales.
The Finn and navigator Timo Rautiainen set fastest times on today's two forest stages to arrive at this evening's superspecial in Cardiff more than a minute and a half clear of world title hopeful Richard Burns - a lead they not surprisingly maintained in SS13.
Today's action was curtailed mid-way through the running of SS11, however, because of a serious accident involving Carlos Sainz. The Spanish driver's Ford Focus slid off the road about 13km into the stage, injuring 12 spectators. All medical facilities on the stage and two air ambulances were deployed to deal with casualties, and with the prospect of a delay and fading light the organisers decided to cancel both SS11 and SS12. Ford elected to withdraw Sainz and Higgins from the event, due to the serious nature of the incident.
A following statement from the hospital has confirmed that none of these injuries are considered to be life-threatening. Actually nine casualties had minor injuries and were discharged later this evening.
At Peugeot the 206 WRCs of Marcus Grönholm, Didier Auriol and Harri Rovanperä have been reliable today. Peugeot's engineering team has determined that Auriol's transmission problem yesterday evening was a differential glitch, not a broken driveshaft as originally thought.
Grönholm has consolidated his overnight lead during today's stages. The outgoing world champion was comfortably quickest on both of this morning's tests to extend his advantage to well over a minute. Team-mate Harri Rovanperä lost time when he hit a rock and bent his car's steering on the day's second stage, but the Swedish Rally winner still held a comfortable third overall as the cars returned to Cardiff this evening.
Didier Auriol hit real trouble, however - the Frenchman spun into a ditch less than two kilometres into the opening stage of the day and he had to wait until enough spectators arrived to return the 206 to the road. He dropped to the bottom of the top ten as a result. Ford's decision to withdraw Carlos Sainz after his accident means that Peugeot is now confirmed as the winner of the World Rally Championship for Manufacturers.
Marcus Gronholm said: ''We haven't had any real problems today. I'm confident about tomorrow - there are four forest stages left and anything can still happen, but if we don't have any dramas or make any mistakes then I don't think Richard is going to try anything.''
Peugeot Total Team Director Corrado Provera said: ''Our first concern is that we have had no proper information concerning the seriousness of the injuries. We have heard that Ford has withdrawn Carlos, which must have been a difficult decision to take. As a consequence of that we are mathematically the manufacturers' world champions. In order to confirm this more completely we know that we have four more forest stages to go. All we can do is try to end the season and the rally itself in the best way possible.''