Peugeot driver Gilles Panizzi has maintained his grip on the fourth round of the FIA World Rally Championship, the Rallye Catalunya-Costa Brava, which continued in northern Spain today.
The Frenchman posted fastest times on all but one of today's stages to build his lead up to more than 40 seconds. His team-mate Richard Burns is still his closest rival - the reigning world champion bolstered his second position today by inching further clear of third-placed Philippe Bugalski.
Fine weekend weather brought huge crowds of spectators to today's stages, causing logistical and safety problems for the organisers. The first and second stages of this morning's schedule had to be cancelled because of fans' cars parked in dangerous places beside the road. Officials managed to run the same tests later this afternoon, although a parked car contributed to a major accident involving Carlos Sainz.
The Peugeot 206 WRCs of Gilles Panizzi and Richard Burns have been reliable today, but Marcus Grönholm continues to complain of badly fading brakes.
Panizzi consolidated his overnight lead on today's shortened schedule, setting fastest times on all but one of the stages which ran, to end the second day over 44 seconds ahead of his team-mate Richard Burns. Burns, in turn, posted third fastest time on the only test that ran this morning, extending his lead over Philippe Bugalski by a couple of seconds. The reigning world champion maintained that form thereafter and despite backing off too much on the gravel-coated final test, he finished the day in a comfortable second overall.
Marcus Grönholm started the day in a relatively lonely fifth and the 2000 world champion has kept that position. He remains less than satisfied with his Peugeot's braking.
Gilles Panizzi said: ''It's looking good now, but we still have to complete tomorrow's stages. I've still been attacking and pushing on a lot of the corners today because that's the best way for me to drive. That way, I have less chance of relaxing too much and making a mistake. I feel sorry for the organisers that they have had too many spectators but they have to keep the safety - if there is a serious accident then it would be very bad for everyone.''
Team-mate Richard Burns added: ''Second would be a fantastic result for me. It probably helped us a little when the stages were cancelled but equally, I might be able to take more time out of Philippe and as a driver, I want to be out there on the roads, competing. My time in the last stage was a little slow because there was a lot of gravel and I probably backed off a bit too much.''
Marcus Grönholm continued: ''I don't know why I'm not quite as fast here as I was in Corsica. I don't have such a nice feeling with the car - it's like it keeps moving around a lot and I've lost confidence in the brakes.''