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Gronholm takes leg one honours on Rally GB.

''I just braked a little too late for a corner after a fast approach,'' noted Burns. ''We put all four wheels off the road and the car ended up on top of a bank. The exhaust was damaged so we'd no power - in fact, even getting back onto the road was a struggle. Then we lost a lot more time going through the rest of the stage.''

At Ford none of the three nominated Focus RS WRC02s have encountered any serious mechanical problems.

Colin McRae's hopes of securing a fourth win on this event took a serious blow on this morning's first stage, when the Scot slid wide at junction and got stuck in mud. He dropped to 10th as a result, but recovered to seventh by the end of SS7.

The Ford challenge has been spearheaded by Markko Martin for much of today though - after his fastest time in last night's superspecial, the young Estonian has held a top three position throughout today's forest stages and he ended the leg in third overall, battling with Subaru's Petter Solberg.

Ford veteran Carlos Sainz has maintained a watching brief behind his younger team-mate, and despite concerns about one of his tyre choices for SS5, the double world champion kept his Focus in fourth.

Ford's fourth entry, former British champion Mark Higgins, held 10th until a 10 second time penalty was incurred when he left the final service park late after his car's engine briefly failed to start. He concluded play, following the Cardiff super special in 12th overall.

''We can keep pushing but unless Marcus has a problem, I don't think anyone's going to stop him from winning here,'' said McRae. ''For us, it's more a question of just trying to keep the car on the road.''

Team-mate Martin added: ''I've been a bit surprised that some of the other guys haven't gone quicker, but we're obviously setting reasonable times and the car has been completely reliable for me.''

The Subaru Impreza WRC2002 of Petter Solberg has been reliable. The similar car of Tommi Makinen showed a smoking turbocharger after the day's first two stages, although Subaru estimated that this had not cost him performance. However, the turbo was changed at the first available service as a precaution.

Solberg hasn't been entirely satisfied with all of his tyre choices today but the Norwegian has, once again, been the top non-Peugeot on the timesheets. He's enjoyed a fight with fellow young star Martin for second overall and Solberg made the position his by a handful of seconds.

Team-mate Makinen had a spin and a half-spin on the day's first stage, but recovered to hold sixth.

Solberg noted: ''We can't touch Marcus but the best we can do is try to hold onto second overall and hope that in the tricky conditions, something might happen to him. It can certainly be that way on this event.''

At Citroen the Xsara WRCs of Sebastien Loeb and Thomas Radstrom have run well.



Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Marcus Gronholm / Timo Rautiainen - Peugeot 206 WRC
Nasser Al-Attiyah - Mini ALL4 Racing
Petter Solberg celebrates at the 2007 Race of Champions
Yazeed Al Rajhi, Michal Orr (Ford Fiesta RRC, #31 Yazeed Racing)
Yazeed Al Rajhi, Michal Orr (Ford Fiesta RRC, #31 Yazeed Racing)
Yazeed Al Rajhi, Michal Orr (Ford Fiesta RRC, #31 Yazeed Racing)
Yazeed Al Rajhi, Michal Orr (Ford Fiesta RRC, #31 Yazeed Racing)
Yazeed Al Rajhi, Michal Orr (Ford Fiesta RRC, #31 Yazeed Racing)
Yazeed Al Rajhi, Michal Orr (Ford Fiesta RRC, #31 Yazeed Racing)
Yazeed Al Rajhi, Michal Orr (Ford Fiesta RRC, #31 Yazeed Racing)
Yazeed Al Rajhi, Michal Orr (Ford Fiesta RRC, #31 Yazeed Racing)
Bjorn Waldegard [Pic credit: Race Retro / www.historicmotorsportshow.com]
Yazeed Al Rajhi, Michal Orr (Ford Fiesta RRC, #31 Yazeed Racing)
Yazeed Al Rajhi, Michal Orr (Ford Fiesta RRC, #31 Yazeed Racing)
Yazeed Al Rajhi, Michal Orr (Ford Fiesta RRC, #31 Yazeed Racing)
Yazeed Al Rajhi, Michal Orr (Ford Fiesta RRC, #31 Yazeed Racing)
Jacques Villeneuve testing his Albatec Racing Peugeot [Pic credit: Gary Hawkins/Ebrey Photographic]
Jacques Villeneuve in his Albatec Racing Peugeot [Pic credit: Gary Hawkins/Ebrey Photographic]

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