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Sainz/Marti blunder hands Martin lead.


Ford's Markko Martin ended the day at the top of the timesheets. The Estonian leads this fifth round of the FIA WRC by 15.2 seconds from Peugeot driver Marcus Gronholm.

Carlos Sainz had been on top through the second leg, until a misunderstanding between him and his co-driver led him to check in early to a control following the penultimate stage. The minute penalty he received dropped the Xsara driver back to third.

Gronholm's fight back was one of the stories of the day. He started the leg in sixth place and said this morning that his chances of winning this event were almost non-existent. By the end of the day it was a different story. Martin knows he's got a fight on his hands, and was concerned by gear selection problems aboard his Focus towards the end of the leg.

There was a good deal of confusion surrounding the rally throughout the day. The first two stages were cancelled due to spectators' misbehaving. The third stage was delayed for one hour and fifty minutes until the FIA safety delegate was happy with the crowds in the stages north of Villa Carlos Paz. The organisers decided to alter the route, dropping the final two stages from today and putting them in tomorrow morning.

At Ford Martin was worried about a gear selection problem on his Focus through the middle loop of stages. Francois Duval's car was troubled by a slight misfire in SS19 and a brake problem in the last test of the day. Mikko Hirvonen's Focus RS WRC 02 was losing power through SS19.

Martin moved into the lead of the rally prior to SS20. He had dropped time in SS18 after hitting a bank and damaging the left-rear tyre one kilometre into the stage.

Duval dropped one place to Solberg early in the day. He wasn't happy with his pace notes on some of the day's tests and admitted he had been making changes as he was competing on the stages.

Martin said: ''I was worried about the gearbox in the middle loop. It wasn't the same as the problem that we had with the selection yesterday, but all the same I was trying to make sure that I didn't change gear as much as I would normally have done. Marcus is closing in, sure it's going to be a big fight tomorrow.''

Duval added: ''On the road section I noticed the misfire was there, but when we got into the stage and went into second gear it seemed to clear itself. Earlier today we broke the windscreen in the car, but I'm not sure how. On that last stage the brakes went five kilometres from the end, there was nothing - not even the handbrake.''



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