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Burns leads the Finland Rally after leg one.


Peugeot has completely dominated the opening day of Rally Finland, the fastest event on the FIA World Rally Championship. Richard Burns is the overnight leader, having won six stages in his 206 WRC.

His team-mates Marcus Grönholm and Harri Rovanperä won the remaining stages. Burns has enjoyed a small road position advantage today - by starting fifth for each test he has avoided the worst of loose gravel and stones that have been swept aside by Marcus Gronholm.

The Briton was handed a late boost when Gronholm broke a shock absorber on SS8, which cost the Finn around 20 seconds on the following stage.

Subaru's Norwegian young gun Petter Solberg leads the chasing pack, but is some 50s behind Gronholm. He snatched the position from Ford's Colin McRae at the end of the day, who is in fifth position.

Local hero Juuso Pykalisto stunned rallying's elite earlier today, by running in an incredible fourth place overall in a 2000-specification Peugeot 206 WRC. The Finn later retired with transmission problems.

All three works Peugeot 206WRCs were mainly reliable. Richard Burns lost his rear window after landing hard from a jump, and Harri Rovanperä was one of several drivers to get a puncture on SS6. Marcus Grönholm broke a shock absorber on SS8 and lost time on the following stage, He was the only driver to use Peugeot's new electronically controlled anti-roll bars.

Despite this though Peugeot have been in a class of their own, and completely dominated the opening day of the rally. Their closest rival, Petter Solberg was 50s behind third placed Gronholm at the end of day one. Richard Burns took full advantage of his road position (fifth) to take an early lead from Harri Rovanperä and Marcus Grönholm. The reigning world champion won six stages (including last night's superspecial) to end the first day with a small lead, before the Killeri superspecial stage.

Championship leader Grönholm lost time whilst he swept the road clear of stones and loose gravel, but was reasonably satisfied to stay in touch with the lead. Tomorrow he will start further down the order, and will enjoy better stage conditions.

Rovanperä said he was driving close to his limit all day, and was also getting used to a different voice calling the pacenotes. Regular navigator Risto Pietilainen was taken ill before the event, and has been replaced by Rovanpera's previous co-driver Voitto Silander.

Marcus Grönholm said: ''I'm quite surprised that all the other non-Peugeots are so far behind.''



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