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Gronholm extends advantage in Sweden.


Marcus Gronholm maintained his grip on the Uddeholm Swedish Rally through day two of the second round of the FIA World Rally Championship.

The reigning world champion enjoyed a largely uneventful run in the stages around Hagfors, north of the rally's base in Karlstad. Gronholm's biggest problem came in the first stage of the day, when he clouted a rock buried in one of the ruts early in Granberget.

The impact knocked studs out of his front-right tyre and put the steering out of line. Despite that problem Gronholm managed to set third fastest time - and then increase his advantage over second-placed driver Tommi Makinen to 38.8s at the close of play.

Subaru driver Makinen reported a similarly uneventful day, save for a heavy landing on the penultimate test, which damaged the exhaust on his Impreza WRC2003. Makinen pulled time out of Peugeot driver Richard Burns who maintains third place ahead of fourth-placed Ford man Markko Martin.

The eighth stage of the rally was stopped when Juuso Pykalisto rolled blocking the road. Harri Rovanpera collided with his car. Both retired from the event.

Gronholm and Burns' 206 WRCs ran reliably. Gronholm continued to lead this event through the second leg, although he suffered the loss of studs on his right front tyre just two kilometres into the long Granberget stage first thing this morning. The Finn missed out on his chance to drive one of his favourite stages - Fredriksberg - after his team-mate Harri Rovanpera crashed into Juuso Pykalisto's already rolled 206. The stage was blocked and the leader was given the best competitive time through the test.

Burns lost time to second-placed Makinen and was frustrated by his progress on the middle loop, the Briton candidly admitted his driving wasn't as good as it could have been.

Rovanpera had closed on Burns through the opening stage, posting fastest time in the process, but it all went wrong for the 2001 Swedish Rally winner when he collided with Pykalisto's 206 on SS8.

Gronholm said: ''I must have hit a stone or something near the start of Granberget to knock the studs out. After that it became harder and harder to steer the cars in left-handers, near the end I was almost stopping to go through the corners. I haven't been pushing any harder than yesterday today, but the last stages of the day - when it was dark - weren't so nice.''



Related Pictures

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