Marcus Gronholm continued to dominate the Propecia Rally New Zealand from the front of the field today. However, it was slightly more exciting for the Finn than yesterday, as he dropped his Peugeot 206 WRC onto its side for 30 seconds on the Parahi stage. The car was undamaged, however, and he set fastest time on the final long gravel stage around Paparoa, north of Auckland.
The tricky weather conditions of yesterday were replaced by bright sunshine for the second leg of this fourth round of the FIA World Rally Championship.
Gronholm wasn't the only front-runner to hit trouble though. Ford's Markko Martin retired his new Focus RS WRC 03 from second place with an engine fault on SS14 and Harri Rovanpera also ended his rally early, the Peugeot driver sliding off the road on the Ararua stage.
Gronholm's and Richard Burns' Peugeot 206 WRCs both suffered brake problems during the second leg. Rovanpera's car was mechanically reliable until he went off the road on SS14!
Gronholm stretched his lead to more than one minute on the opening stage while team-mate Burns moved past Solberg into third place, and to within 3.1seconds of Markko Martin. Rovanpera also moved ahead of the Subaru driver and into fourth place on SS12.
Gronholm went off the road on SS13, tipping the car on to its side and losing half a minute before he continued. The car was not to badly damaged and he went on to set fastest time on the following stage to maintain a lead of more than one minute at the end of leg 2. Rovanpera also went off the road on the next stage, but he was unable to get back on to the road.
Burns ended the day in second place, despite a lack of rear brakes for the final ten kilometres of SS14.
''Today has been good, apart from the mistake on one stage,'' noted Gronholm. ''I was too quick into a junction and bang, there were only two spectators there, so it took time to get going again. I'm happy and quite confident about tomorrow.''
''The brake problem was quite bad, the pedal was going right to the floor,'' said team-mate, Burns. ''I'm not sure what the problem is, but the team is changing everything to try and sort it out tonight.''
Team boss, Corrado Provera added: ''Most of all I am sorry for Harri himself, he did a great job today and deserved to score his first points of the year. Looking on the positive side, Marcus and Richard have done a fantastic job and I wish them the best of luck for tomorrow.''