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Sainz takes lead on day one of Rally Argentina.

Over at Subaru Tommi Makinen's Impreza WRC 2003s suffered serious transmission problems at the start of SS8, forcing the Finn to drive two stages and the road sections in second gear. Petter Solberg's car ran reliably throughout.

Makinen held an early top three place after setting two fastest times, but his hopes of winning this event went out of the window with the gearbox problem, on the last of the middle loop of today's stages. The problem was with the selector and the unit was changed at lunchtime service. Unfortunately for the Finn, he dropped so much time going through SS8 that he incurred a penalty for late arrival at the start of SS9. Petter Solberg rolled on the fifth stage this morning, dropping two minutes, but ran without problems for the remainder of the day making up places and progressing back up the leaderboard.

Solberg said: ''We were having some problems with the brakes in left-hand corners. On the first stage this morning this caused us to spin and hit the bank. The roll came in a slow fourth gear corner. We got out and then the spectators came and we got it back on the wheels.''

Makinen added: ''On the first loop of stages, everything was good. The car, and especially the new suspension, felt fine. Then we couldn't get a gear at the start of the eighth stage. Eventually we managed to get second gear, but we dropped so much time going through the stages at that speed. Now we're just going to keep going and see what we can do, see if we can make any points.''

Hyundai's Freddy Loix retired his Accent WRC3 after the sixth stage with engine problems. Armin Schwarz's car ran without any mechanical problems.

Loix's car cut out half way through the SS6. Initial thoughts were of a water-related problem, because the car had just come through a water splash, but it was discovered to be an electrical fault. Schwarz maintained his early top ten placing, despite problems with the car's shock absorbers and being forced to drive with his door open for three kilometres following a watersplash in SS5.

Schwarz said: ''We found the limits of the shock absorbers at shakedown yesterday. Now we are driving within those limits, which means we are having to take it steady in places. The door opening was a strange one, I've no idea how it happened, but I struggled for a while with dust and water coming in before I was able to get it shut again.''

Team boss David Whitehead noted: ''Loix car's problem was with the boost pressure sensor, which appears to have broken up and stopped communicating with the engine management system. The engine overheated, went on to a default setting and eventually stopped. After a long discussion over the radio, Freddy got the car started again - but they had dropped 27 minutes.''

Toni Gardemeister's Skoda Octavia WRC suffered a broken track control arm on SS5 today. Didier Auriol felt the car's suspension wasn't working right for the morning stages, otherwise it was reliable.

Following the implementation of a 60-second penalty, Gardemeister's rally went further downhill on the opening loop of three stages when he clouted a rock and damaged the steering. Gardemeister admitted he had struggled with the size of the Octavia on some of the day's narrower stages. Auriol suffered suspension trouble early in the day.



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