Subaru driver Petter Solberg leads the Cyprus Rally, round seven of the FIA World Rally Championship, after an astonishing day's action on the Limassol-based event.

The Norwegian started the day in third place, but immediately overhauled Peugeot's Marcus Gronholm and Harri Rovanpera on the opening stage of the day. Gronholm retired on the next test with transmission trouble, while Rovanpera kept the lead Subaru in his sights, holding second place as the cars arrived back on the coast this evening.

Solberg controlled the rally from the front, promising that he wasn't taking any risks and saving his attack for the final leg. Rovanpera was hobbled by an overheating Peugeot for the first loop of stages, but from then on his 206 WRC ran largely without fault. Citroen's Sebastien Loeb was third after a trouble-free run in his Xsara WRC, with team-mates Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz backing the Frenchman up in fourth and fifth.

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The rocky stages in the Troodos mountains proved too much for Markko Martin and Francois Duval, however. They both retired their Focus RS WRC03s on the opening stage. Today was also the final world championship action for the Octavia WRC - both cars retired on the middle loop of stages.

Solberg's Impreza WRC2003 ran without fault, while Tommi Makinen retired after SS10, having exceeded the time allowance while repairing a broken wheel in stage six.

Solberg's plan of a measured drive through the second leg paid off: he kept out of trouble and brought his car home at the head of the field. His team-mate Makinen's day was ruined when he broke a rear wheel on the Subaru on the second stage of the day. The wheel wouldn't come off, so he and co-driver Kaj Lindstrom removed the whole suspension to get it off. The suspension was then reassembled, dropping the crew 28 minutes in the process. With the suspension sorted, Makinen set fastest time on the next stage. Of the six stages Makinen completed today, he was fastest on four of them.

''The car has been fine today,'' said Solberg, ''I am making some minor changes to the differentials, but that's what I always do, if I wasn't doing that I wouldn't be doing the rally properly! I'm happy with the position, I'm happy that I have more to give tomorrow.''

Team boss David Lapworth added: ''What Tommi did was very impressive, given the heat and the limited number of tools he had to work with.''

At Peugeot meanwhile Gronholm retired with transmission problems on the second stage this morning, while Richard Burns joined him on the retirements' list after SS10. Rovanpera suffered overheating problems but continued through to the end of the leg.

Rovanpera ended the day in second position, despite the car losing power on the first loop of stages this morning. Following his transmission problems of yesterday, the team has re-fitted the gearbox which he started the rally with, feeling this was in better condition than the spare. The Finn didn't suffer any transmission trouble on leg two.

Gronholm's problems started on the first stage today, when his 206 WRC suffered rear differential and then propshaft trouble. He ended the stage in front-wheel-drive and down in fourth position. The number one Peugeot then broke the front differential on the following stage, forcing Gronholm to stop with no drive. Burns suffered further transmission problems on the first loop of stages, but it was an overheating engine which forced his retirement.

''This morning the car went on to a safe map to get through the stages,'' said Rovanpera, ''I don't know how much power this cost us, but it felt like 50bhp. This afternoon it has been better. There's still a long way to go in this event and we've seen just how tough it can be - today has been a difficult day for the team.''

Burns commented: ''This morning I went for the manual shift early in the first stage; using the wheel-mounted shift wasn't working, the car was searching for gears - sometimes it would get them, sometimes not. The manual shift was working okay, but it all came to nothing when the engine temperature went up on the road section after stage eight. It went up more in the next stage, we stopped after it to try and get some water into the radiator. We went through SS10 in road mode, but about a kilometre out of service the engine died. It went to three cylinders to two to one and then stopped completely.''

All three Citroean Xsara WRCs ran reliably through the second leg. Loeb continued to spearhead the Citroen attack on this event, ending the day in third place. Loeb was making minor adjustments to his car throughout the leg, but admitted he was more concerned with staving off a possible attack from his team-mate McRae who was in fourth place.

The Scot's car had run with extremely high engine temperatures through the morning, which had cost some power, but McRae's bigger problem on day two was breaking the rear suspension on SS10. The Scot hit the rock one kilometre from the end of the stage, dropping 20 seconds. When he came out of the stage he was forced to make roadside repairs to get the Xsara back to service.

Sainz wasn't happy with his suspension settings this morning and decided to return to the set-up he'd used yesterday. The Spaniard remained fifth.

''We are always looking for more speed, so we need to keep trying different settings,'' said Loeb, ''Today has been okay for me though. I want to push to try and stay ahead of Colin, but at the same time I don't want to break the car.''

McRae noted: ''We've made some more changes this morning and I was a bit happier, now we have to leave it for a while and see how the car feels. We've got to give the changes a chance. Luckily the suspension problem was quite close to the end of stage ten, so we didn't have far to go. We did go off the road and hit the front of the car because of this problem, but the damage to the front isn't bad.''

Ford's Martin and Duval both retired on the first stage this morning. Both Focus RS WRC03s suffered the same problem: low oil pressure. Mikko Hirvonen's 2002 specification Focus ran without mechanical fault.

Both Martin and Duval retired approximately six kilometres from the start of the day's opening test. After inspecting the cars, team director Malcolm Wilson said the problem was caused by dust getting into the car's engines. Martin had been seventh and Duval 11th going into the stage. Mikko Hirvonen's only problem on leg two was stalling on the line of SS10.

Martin commented: ''A win wasn't likely after our troubles yesterday, but we wanted to score good points here. The attack we planned for this morning hasn't come off.''

Duval continued: ''There was really thick dust on the road and in the ruts, this caused the problem. The car wasn't broken but when the oil-warning light flicked on, we switched the engine off.''

Hirvonen said: ''We've had a good day today, no problems and more experience. It's been really hot in the car again - maybe hotter than yesterday. When I did the recce, I drove the stages without the air conditioning on to try and get used to the temperatures, but there's not much that can prepare you for what it's like during the rally.''

Ford boss Malcolm Wilson commented: ''The dust was like dry cement, it's gone into the engine and blocked things up. This isn't a problem with the engine itself, but it is similar to the problems we had with Markko's car in Argentina. We have to look at things again, this will be addressed immediately.''

Over at Hyundai Armin Schwarz's car suffered continued overheating trouble and a gearbox problem on the opening loop of stages. Freddy Loix retired with no compression after dust clogged the air filter at the end of stage six. Justin Dale retired yesterday with an overheating problem after SS2.

Schwarz lost third gear not far after the start of SS6. Forced to rev the car harder in second gear before trying to pull fourth, he was concerned that this was going to force the engine temperature even higher. He made it through the day, however, making it clear that he was just driving for points. Loix's car inhaled dust through the sixth test, forcing him into retirement with no power in the engine.

Schwarz said: ''We are just driving slowly, that's all we can do in this situation. I may push a little bit on the stage, but as soon as I have a moment, I am slowing right down. The gearbox problem was bad, third gear is one which you use quite a lot on these stages. All we can do is take it steady - recce speed - and wait for the finish.''

Loix added: ''The car didn't feel right when we left service this morning and it became progressively more difficult to drive. The temperature warning light came on and we eventually stopped.''

Skoda's Toni Gardemeister slid off the road and into retirement on SS9, while Didier Auriol's car went out two stages later with an electrical problem.

Gardemeister had moved into the top ten despite continued fuel vapourisation problems on his car. He went out of the rally damaging his engine when he went off the road. Auriol was still close behind the seventh-placed Ford of Mikko Hirvonen when his car stopped with no electrical charge after the tenth stage. This is the first time in 22 rallies that Skoda hasn't managed to get an Octavia to the finish. It also happens to be the last time Skoda will have an opportunity to get an Octavia to the finish, with the Fabia WRC coming into play at the next rally in Germany.

Gardemeister said: ''The problem came after a crest, where the car jumped a little further than I thought it would. Unfortunately a lot of trees have been felled in the area, and we landed right on top of a tree stump - which broke something in the engine.''

Of the other entries Toshi Arai continues to lead the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship. The Japanese driver heads up a Subaru Impreza one-two-three, with Martin Rowe in the runners-up spot after Stig Blomqvist suffered brake problems on his car and dropped back to third.

Of the non-factory cars, Gilles Panizzi retired from third place when the engine on his 206 WRC failed. Britain's Alistair Ginley is now top non-works driver making the top ten in his Ford Focus RS WRC02.

Rally statistics - Leg 2:

Starters: 42 crews (20 Group A and 22 Group N) started this morning.

Top retirements: Gronholm (FIN), Burns (GB), Martin (EE), Duval (B), Makinen (FIN), Loix (B), Auriol (F), Gardemeister (FIN), Panizzi (F), Warmbold (D), Pykalisto (FIN).

Today - Saturday 21 June: Leg 2 started from Limassol at 06h00 and covered 549.61km, including 158.35km on eight stages. The first car arrived back in Limassol at 19h35.

Tomorrow - Sunday 22 June: Leg 3 starts from Limassol at 07h30 and covers 305.30km, including 82.86km on six stages. The first car is expected to arrive back in Limassol, Promenade, at 15h20.

Weather forecast: Remain hot and sunny.

Stage by stage summary - Leg 2:

SS5 Kourdali-Asinou (15.00kms):
1. Makinen (FIN) Subaru 15m 48.5
2. Solberg (N) Subaru 15m 56.8
3. Rovanpera (FIN) Peugeot 16m 03.3

Leaders after SS5:
1. Solberg (N) Subaru 1h 44m 56.9
2. Rovanpera (FIN) Peugeot 1h 44m 59.9
3. Panizzi (F) Peugeot 1h 45m 26.5

SS6 Asinou-Nikitari (25.61kms):
1. Solberg (N) Subaru 26m 28.3
2. Rovanpera (FIN) Peugeot 26m 34.1
3. Sainz (E) Citroen 26m 54.1

Leaders after SS6:
1. Solberg (N) Subaru 2h 11m 25.2
2. Rovanpera (FIN) Peugeot 2h 11m 34.0
3. Loeb (F) Citroen 2h 12m 40.4

SS7 Orkondas-Stavroulia (17.99kms):
1. Makinen (FIN) Subaru 19m 02.7
2. Solberg (N) Subaru 19m 11.0
3. Rovanpera (FIN) Peugeot 19m 15.6

Leaders after SS7:
1. Solberg (N) Subaru 2h 30m 36.2
2. Rovanpera (FIN) Peugeot 2h 30m 49.6
3. Loeb (F) Citroen 2h 32m 13.7

SS8 Akrounda-Apsiou (7.99kms):
1. Makinen (FIN) Subaru 8m 01.4
2. Rovanpera (FIN) Peugeot 8m 03.5
3. Solberg (N) Subaru 8m 06.6

Leaders after SS8:
1. Solberg (N) Subaru 2h 38m 42.8
2. Rovanpera (FIN) Peugeot 2h 38m 53.1
3. Loeb (F) Citroen 2h 40m 28.9

SS9 Foini-Koilinia 1 (30.33kms):
1. Rovanpera (FIN) Peugeot 27m 23.4
2. Makinen (FIN) Subaru 27m 25.4
3. Solberg (N) Subaru 27m 28.9

Leaders after SS9:
1. Solberg (N) Subaru 3h 06m 11.7
2. Rovanpera (FIN) Peugeot 3h 06m 16.5
3. Loeb (F) Citroen 3h 08m 20.5

SS10 Galatareia-Nata 1 (15.55kms):
1. Makinen (FIN) Subaru 11m 14.7
2. Solberg (N) Subaru 11m 15.8
3. Rovanpera (FIN) Peugeot 11m 25.3

Leaders after SS10:
1. Solberg (N) Subaru 3h 17m 27.4
2. Rovanpera (FIN) Peugeot 3h 17m 41.8
3. Loeb (F) Citroen 3h 19m 46.2

SS11 Foini-Koilinia 2 (30.33kms):
1. Rovanpera (FIN) Peugeot 26m 54.4
2. Solberg (N) Subaru 26m 55.6
3. McRae (GB) Citroen 27m 07.1

Leaders after SS11:
1. Solberg (N) Subaru 3h 44m 23.0
2. Rovanpera (FIN) Peugeot 3h 44m 36.2
3. Loeb (F) Citroen 3h 46m 54.6

SS12 Galatareia-Nata 2 (15.55kms):
1. Solberg (N) Subaru 10m 58.6
2. Rovanpera (FIN) Peugeot 11m 10.7
3. Loeb (F) Citroen 11m 11.6

Leaders after SS12:
1. Solberg (N) Subaru 3h 55m 21.6
2. Rovanpera (FIN) Peugeot +25.3
3. Loeb (F) Citroen +2m 44.6
4. McRae (GB) Citroen +3m 29.0
5. Sainz (E) Citroen +4m 32.9
6. Hirvonen (FIN) Ford +6m 49.4
7. Schwarz (D) Hyundai +10m 03.3
8. Ginley (GB) Ford +16m 24.7
9. Arai (J) Subaru +23m 13.9
10. Rowe (GB) Subaru +25m 19.5