Four-times world champion Tommi M?kinen will take a slender half-second lead into tomorrow's final leg of the Rally Argentina, sixth round of the FIA World Rally Championship.

The Subaru driver grabbed the advantage from yesterday's leader Marcus Gr?nholm on this afternoon's penultimate special stage and although Gr?nholm retaliated in the last test, he fell just short of reclaiming the advantage.

Reigning world champion Richard Burns is still in contention in third position, half a minute off the lead, while fourth-placed Petter Solberg is poised to fight with double world champion Carlos Sainz during tomorrow's short final leg.

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Today's schedule gave crews a repeat run over the same stages that had been used yesterday and the slightly rougher conditions resulted in further retirements amongst the manufacturer entries.

Peugeot lost both Harri Rovanper? and Gilles Panizzi, while Hyundai's Freddy Loix retired from his overnight sixth place at the end of the morning's first test.

Subaru's Tommi M?kinen suffered a brief scare on today's second stage, when his Impreza WRC2002's master switch cut all power after a heavy landing. In normal circumstances this would mean a reset, costing around 15 seconds, but when the Finn flicked the switch back into position the car started immediately so he didn't lose much time as a result.

Petter Solberg's car was reliable this morning but then in SS12, the Norwegian's gearbox went into 'safe mode'. The car's transmission then locked solid after a jump in the Pro-Racing superspecial and although he rectified that problem, he had to continue through the following three tests before service with the gearbox in 'safe mode', which lengthens shifts and costs time. The Norwegian also suffered intercom problems in the afternoon.

M?kinen started today knowing that leader Marcus Gr?nholm would have to hit problems if he was to stand a chance of overhauling his countryman, and when the Peugeot driver lost hydraulic pressure on the opening two stages it gave his challenger enough of a chance for him to attack. The four-times world champion chipped away at Gr?nholm's lead throughout the afternoon and a very fast time on the day's penultimate stage was enough for him to move into the lead. Although Gr?nholm fought back in SS18, M?kinen held on to the lead by just half a second.

Petter Solberg, meanwhile, spun on today's first stage and was then slowed by a puncture, intercom problems and gearbox glitches. The young Norwegian is embroiled in a battle with Carlos Sainz for fourth - he leads the Spaniard by just 8.9 seconds overnight.

Tommi M?kinen said: ''Tomorrow morning will be really interesting - it's good to have a fight with Marcus. I drove a good penultimate stage - just neat and tidy, with not too many big risks - and it worked. I like tomorrow's stages, because they're good drivers' stages. It's going to be a good fight.''

Team-mate Petter Solberg added: ''I really haven't had much of a clean run today. I spun in the first stage, then we had the puncture in the second and then the gearbox started to play up in the third. That was the worst problem, of course, because it meant we had to do five stages with the 'safe mode'. I'm still trying and we're having a good fight with Carlos for fourth at the moment.''

The Peugeot 206 WRCs of Marcus Gr?nholm and Harri Rovanper? both hit problems this morning. Gr?nholm's car lost hydraulic pressure seven kilometres into SS10, forcing the driver to cope without differentials and switch his throttle from hydraulic to manual control. The difficult handling resulted in the world championship leader clipping a rock and knocking his car's suspension out of line. His Peugeot team changed the hydraulic pump and a gearbox at the following service.

Rovanper?'s car lapsed onto two cylinders in SS10, and the Finn was forced to retire when the problem worsened further in the following stage. Gilles Panizzi's car, meanwhile, suffered from overheating in the afternoon stages and the Frenchman picked up penalties after he stopped to fill the radiator with extra water. He retired on the road section after the following service when the problem recurred.

Gr?nholm lost more than a minute of his overnight lead on this morning's opening two stages, when his 206 WRC lost hydraulic pressure and slithered wildly over the greasy Argentine roads. The 2000 world champion believed he was too cautious on the slightly rougher roads today, and he was overhauled by M?kinen by the time the cars entered the day's last stage. Gr?nholm fought back in SS18, but he ended the day in second - albeit just half a second behind his rival.

Richard Burns, meanwhile, still holds a comfortable third overall after he fell just short of M?kinen's pace today. The reigning title-holder will start tomorrow's final leg just over half a minute off the lead. The two other 206 WRC drivers, Gilles Panizzi and Harri Rovanper?, both retired with mechanical problems today. Panizzi's car succumbed to overheating, while valve problems accounted for the engine in Rovanper?'s 206 in SS10.

Marcus Gr?nholm said: ''The car was really hard to control without the hydraulic pressure, because the diffs didn't work at all. To be honest, I haven't had such a good feeling today with the second runs over the stages. I've probably been a bit too careful in the rougher stuff. At least tomorrow's stages are being used for the first time.''

Richard Burns continued: ''We've tried to put Tommi under pressure but we've only beaten him on one of the stages today and he's been on a charge. My car set-up was probably a little soft for the second run over the stages but generally, I'm reasonably satisfied.''

The Ford Focus RS WRC02s of Carlos Sainz, Colin McRae and Markko Martin have been reliable, although Sainz was unhappy with stiffer springs that he changed to overnight, and he quickly reverted back to yesterday's set-up. Martin's biggest problem was a smashed windscreen after a spectator threw a rock at his car on the day's penultimate stage.

Sainz tried new springs this morning but he felt the switch hadn't improved performance so he quickly reverted to yesterday's set-up. The original settings clearly worked as they allowed the Spaniard to close in on fourth-placed Petter Solberg during much of the afternoon. Sainz will start tomorrow's final leg in fifth, just under nine seconds behind the Norwegian. Colin McRae didn't change his car's settings at all, but the Scot showed improved pace today as he quickly moved from his overnight 10th place to the fringes of the points. He holds sixth overnight. Young Estonian Markko Martin has occasionally been the fastest Ford driver today as he enjoyed a second run over stages where he lacks experience. He occupies seventh.

Carlos Sainz noted: ''It's a good fight with Petter and we just have to keep pushing. We've had no real problems with the car today and we aren't changing the set-ups. The plan is to attack and see what happens after a few stages.''

Colin McRae added: ''The difference today is that we haven't spun, there's been no fog and we haven't suffered with dust. Of course I'm reasonably pleased to be in sixth, given where we ended up at the end of yesterday, but it'd be nice to be a bit quicker as well.''

Hyundai's Freddy Loix was forced to retire his Accent WRC3 this morning. He lost throttle control towards the end of the day's first stage and although he limped to the finish with the engine idling and tried various possible cures before SS11, he was unable to fix the problem. Juha Kankkunen's Accent, meanwhile, has been reliable.

The early retirement of Loix with throttle problems was a blow to Hyundai, given that the Belgian had re-started this morning in sixth overall. But Juha Kankkunen has provided some comfort to the Korean manufacturer by posting a string of competitive times and move clear of both Gabriel Pozzo and Alister McRae. He holds tenth overnight.

Juha Kankkunen said: ''It's been going quite well today, but that just makes me frustrated that we lost so much time when we went off yesterday. I've been running first on the road today and I've actually been quite surprised at how good the roads have been second time through. They've stood up pretty well.''

Toni Gardemeister's Skoda Octavia WRC has suffered from a loosening front anti-roll bar during many of today's stages, forcing the car to become unstable in corners. He also knocked the car's steering out of line on the day's penultimate stage. Gabriel Pozzo's Octavia lost its power steering during this morning's opening pair of stages and suffered brake glitches in the following five tests, but Kenneth Eriksson's car has been generally reliable. The Swede's only problems have been three punctures but on all occasions, Michelin's anti-deflation mousse system prevented any serious loss of time.

Gardemeister and Eriksson continue to post respectable times in their Octavias, despite concerns over wheel tracking and punctures respectively. Gardemeister ended today's action in eighth, although he'd been unable to halt the progress of both Colin McRae and Markko Martin. Eriksson benefited from the retirements of Harri Rovanper?, Freddy Loix and Gilles Panizzi as he moved up to ninth today. The third Octavia driver, Gabriel Pozzo, was hit by power steering failure this morning but he still holds 12th.

Toni Gardemeister said: ''We've taken some big risks today and tried absolutely everything but we haven't been able to keep up with the Fords' times. In some places we've been up two or three banks in one corner, so I don't think we can try much harder. All we can hope to do now is stay in a good position and see what happens tomorrow morning.''

Mitsubishi's Alister McRae lost time on his morning's first stage when a clip came loose on one of his Lancer Evo WRC's turbo pipes and he lost all turbo boost as a result. He was able to take a clip from elsewhere in the car to fix the problem before the next stage, however.

The net effect was though that the problem quickly drew the Scot into a battle with the recovering Juha Kankkunen, and he felt that twistier sections left him open to attack from the Finn. McRae was unable to keep the four-times world champion behind him and he'll start tomorrow's action in 11th.

Alister McRae said: ''We've seen today that on the faster stuff, there's nothing between our pace and that of Juha (Kankkunen) but when things get narrower or more twisty, he takes time out of it. The car's still a bit of a handful in the slower corners and we have to work on that.''

Of the other entries the battle for honours in Group N was turned on its head this morning. Overnight leader Marcos Ligato broke his rear suspension in SS10 and dropped to sixth. That allowed Toshihiro Arai to build up a commanding advantage of nearly two minutes, but in SS16 the Japanese driver lost a wheel and had to return to service with several rocks and navigator Tony Sircombe in his Subaru's boot to counterbalance the problem. Ramon Ferreyros (Mitsubishi) now holds the category lead, ahead of Arai and Karamjit Singh (Proton).

Rally statistics - Leg two:
Starters: 50 cars (31 Group A and 29 Group N) restarted the rally.

Retirements: Rovanper? (FIN), Loix (B), Panizzi (F) and 13 other drivers.

Today - Saturday 18 May: Leg 2 started from Villa Carlos Paz at 06h40 and covered 480.97km, including 153.79km on nine special stages.

Tomorrow - Sunday 18 May: Leg 3 starts from Villa Carlos Paz at 06h00 and covers 497.66km, including 73.87km on four special stages. The first car is expected to arrive at the finish control in Cordoba at 15h33.

Weather forecast: Staying cloudy with a chance of showers.

Stage by stage summary - Leg two:

SS10 Capilla del Monte (23.02kms):
1. Burns (GB) Peugeot 17m 10.0
2. M?kinen (FIN) Subaru 17m 12.8
3. Martin (EE) Ford 17m 19.0

Leaders after SS10:
1. Gr?nholm (FIN) Peugeot 1h 47m 42.2
2. M?kinen (FIN) Subaru 1h 48m 35.1
3. Burns (GB) Peugeot 1h 48m 53.0

SS11 San Marcos Sierra (26.97kms)
1. M?kinen (FIN) Subaru 15m 13.3
2. Burns (GB) Peugeot 15m 17.2
3. C. McRae (GB) Ford 15m 21.9

Leaders after SS11:
1. Gr?nholm (FIN) Peugeot 2h 03m 32.2
2. M?kinen (FIN) Subaru 2h 03m 48.4
3. Burns (GB) Peugeot 2h 04m 10.2

SS12 Cosquin (19.19kms):
1. M?kinen (FIN) Subaru 13m 16.7
2. Gr?nholm (FIN) Peugeot 13m 20.2
3. Martin (EE) Ford 13m 20.7

Leaders after SS12:
1. Gr?nholm (FIN) Peugeot 2h 16m 52.4
2. M?kinen (FIN) Subaru 2h 17m 05.1
3. Burns (GB) Peugeot 2h 17m 31.1

SS13 Pro-Racing Lane A (3.44kms):
1. Burns (GB) Peugeot 2m 12.7
2. Kankkunen (FIN) Hyundai 2m 13.2
3. Gr?nholm (FIN) Peugeot 2m 13.4
3. Martin (EE) Ford 2m 13.4

Leaders after SS13:
1. Gr?nholm (FIN) Peugeot 2h 19m 05.8
2. M?kinen (FIN) Subaru 2h 19m 19.1
3. Burns (GB) Peugeot 2h 19m 43.8

SS14 Pro-Racing Lane B (3.44kms):
1. McRae (GB) Ford 2m 12.2
2. M?kinen (FIN) Subaru 2m 12.8
3. Panizzi (F) Peugeot 2m 13.1

Leaders after SS14:
1. Gr?nholm (FIN) Peugeot 2h 21m 19.2
2. M?kinen (FIN) Subaru 2h 21m 31.9
3. Burns (GB) Peugeot 2h 21m 57.1

SS15 Tanti (16.07kms):
1. M?kinen (FIN) Subaru 8m 22.7
2. Burns (GB) Peugeot 8m 24.7
3. Gr?nholm (FIN) Peugeot 8m 26.5

Leaders after SS15:
1. Gr?nholm (FIN) Peugeot 2h 29m 45.7
2. M?kinen (FIN) Subaru 2h 29m 54.6
3. Burns (GB) Peugeot 2h 30m 21.8

SS16 La Falda (9.37kms):
1. McRae (GB) Ford 6m 35.9
2. Sainz (E) Ford 6m 36.2
3. M?kinen (FIN) Subaru 6m 36.3

Leaders after SS16:
1. Gr?nholm (FIN) Peugeot 2h 36m 25.3
2. M?kinen (FIN) Subaru 2h 36m 30.9
3. Burns (GB) Peugeot 2h 36m 59.4

SS17 La Cumbre (23.46kms):
1. Makinen (FIN) Subaru 19m 49.4
2. Gronholm (FIN) Peugeot 19m 57.5
3. Burns (GB) Peugeot 19m 57.6

Leaders after SS17:
1. Makinen (FIN) Subaru 2h 56m 20.3
2. Gronholm (FIN) Peugeot 2h 56m 22.8
3. Burns (GB) Peugeot 2h 56m 57.0

SS18 Ascohinga (28.83kms):
1. Burns (GB) Peugeot 18m 39.2
1. Gronholm (FIN) Peugeot 18m 39.2
3. Makinen (FIN) Subaru 18m 41.2

Leaders after SS18 - Leg two:
1. Makinen (FIN) Subaru 1h 29m 42.0
2. Gronholm (FIN) Peugeot +00.5
3. Burns (GB) Peugeot +34.7
4. Solberg (N) Subaru +1m 43.0
5. Sainz (E) Ford +1m 51.9
6. McRae (GB) Ford +3m 31.1
7. Martin (EE) Ford +4m 00.8
8. Gardemeister (FIN) Skoda +5m 38.9
9. Eriksson (S) Skoda +6m 35.4
10. Kankkunen (FIN) Hyundai +8m 57.3