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Martin extends advantage on the Acropolis.


Ford driver Markko Martin maintained his grip on the Acropolis Rally, round six of the FIA World Rally Championship, at the end of today's eight stages to the south of the rally's base in Lamia.

The Estonian's chief rival, Peugeot's Harri Rovanpera, dropped out of the reckoning, when his 206 was struck by gearbox problems on the second stage this morning.

Martin's car ran without fault on the stages, although he and co-driver Michael Park turned mechanics between the second two tests this morning when an electrical connection in the gearbox broke. With help from the engineers over the radio the pair sorted the problem out and drove the next stage without any problems.

This morning Martin admitted he was still feeling the effects of driving 20km of yesterday's Elatia stage with the bonnet up, blocking the air intake. But by the afternoon, he was feeling fine and demonstrated this by setting fastest time on four of the day's stages.

Citroen driver Carlos Sainz is second overnight after a trouble-free day in his Xsara WRC, while Petter Solberg battled back after dropping one minute with a broken driveshaft on his Subaru Impreza WRC 2003 to end the leg in third spot.

Martin's Ford Focus RS WRC 03 ran largely without mechanical fault throughout the day and he continues to lead the event, having started the day with a 4.8-second lead over Rovanpera.

He dropped some of that on the first stage, but made it all back up on the next one when Rovanpera hit gearbox trouble. Martin was caught in Rovanpera's dust which cost some time, however. The only other minor drama for the leader was a gearbox problem which developed between stages ten and 11.

Martin and his co-driver Michael Park were on the radio for advice while they reconnected a sensor. Martin ended the day with a 55.8sec lead.

The other driver running in a semi-works capacity is Jari-Matti Latvala, Ford's 18-year-old RS WRC 02 driver. The Finn enjoyed his day to bring the car home in 12th position.



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