Ford driver Markko Martin leads the ninth round of this year's FIA World Rally Championship - the Neste Rally Finland - after a dramatic day that saw the retirement from the lead of Peugeot driver Marcus Gronholm.

His team-mate Richard Burns moved up to second and Citroen driver Colin McRae tumbled down the order after incurring a minute's time penalty, before crashing out of the rally on SS16. More drama was added when Burns dropped time with a wheel-bearing failure on the final stage, but he got back to service safely. At the end of Leg two, just one second covers second, third and fourth places!

The Peugeot of Richard Burns ran without mechanical problems today, until suffering a last-minute wheel bearing failure on the final stage.

Harri Rovanpera was forced to retire after going off the road on SS12. Marcus Gronholm was forced to retire from the lead after SS14, as a result of broken suspension and a lost front wheel.

Gronholm took the lead after SS12 this morning, but lost it in dramatic fashion during SS14. The first he knew of a problem was a soft brake pedal, then the right-front wheel and suspension came off 10 kilometres from the end of the stage. With a long road section and another stage in front of him, the Finn was forced into retirement.

Burns moved up to second following Gronholm's retirement, but Rovanpera got no further than SS12 after setting a third-fastest time on the opening stage of the day.

"I was debating whether to push like hell to win, or think of the championship," said Burns, "Now I suppose the most important thing is to finish the event."

Gronholm added: "I'm very disappointed to retire, as I think I could have had four Rally Finland victories in a row here. I don't know what happened, but I didn't hit anything. The brake pedal went soft, then the wheel came off. Maybe a wheel bearing broke."

Rovanpera continued: "I'm not quite sure what happened. We came over a crest into a slight corner and I was careful not to cut the corner after what happened yesterday. But the car didn't turn into the corner properly and we ended up on the other side of the road and into a bank."

At Citroen meanwhile the two Xsara WRCS of Sebastien Loeb and Carlos Sainz ran without major mechanical problems. Colin McRae retired in an accident on SS16.

McRae started the day in fourth place and was set to move up to third, following Marcus Gronholm's retirement. But he incurred a minute's penalty after checking in early to the time control before SS14, and tumbled down the order. His rally was over on SS16 when he crashed his Citroen Xsara.

Sainz moved up to third place after benefiting from McRae's time penalty and passing the Subaru of Solberg on SS15. Loeb continued his learning process and ended up in fifth after another solid day. The only small problem he had was with his rear brakes on SS14.

Loeb commented: "It's been a good day. I've been pleasantly surprised by some of the times I've been setting, especially as there's been quite a lot of gravel on the road in my starting position."

Sainz added: "Today has been a tough and unpredictable day for everybody. Tomorrow should be a very big fight."

At Ford Markko Martin's Focus RS WRC03 suffered an electrical problem throughout the middle loop of three stages that also affected the differentials. The other Focus RS WRC03 of Francois Duval had intermittent brake problems throughout the day, but the 2002 specification Focus of Mikko Hirvonen retired after SS11 following a turbo fire.

Martin spearheaded the battle for the lead all day and ended up with over a minute's advantage following Burns's problems on the final stage. Duval remained under instructions to finish the rally in order to learn the roads, but he was blighted by brake problems that meant he finished 11th.

"I'm really happy to be leading by so much tonight," said Martin. "It was scary this afternoon when we had the electrical problem because we really didn't know what had caused it. The team did a great job in sorting that out and now we just look forward to tomorrow."

Duval added: "Running first on the road today has been very difficult. It's hard to learn on roads where you don't have a clean line to follow. It's difficult to discover where you should be on the road."

Both Subaru Impreza WRC2003s have run reliably throughout the day. But both cars have encountered problems with tyre mousse vibrations on the middle loop of stages.

Solberg is embroiled in a three-way battle for second place together with Burns and Sainz. The Norwegian is currently fourth, just 0.2 seconds behind Sainz and 0.5 seconds behind Burns. If he finishes second, it would be his second consecutive podium finish here after finishing third last year. Makinen finishes the day sixth after a steady run and is looking forward to a solid points finish.

"It's one of the most exciting rallies I've ever driven on," said Solberg, "Everybody will be trying hard tomorrow, but I want to be trying harder!"

Makinen said: "It's not been the easiest day for us but we are still here while several people have gone out and hopefully we can take away a good result."

At Hyundai all three Accent WRC?s of Freddy Loix, Armin Schwarz and Jussi Valimaki were generally reliable throughout the day. Schwarz lost his front brakes in the morning, whereas Valimaki suffered from his brakes overheating in the afternoon. Loix broke a spark plug on SS13 but changed it before the following stage.

All three cars had a steady run, apart from the brake problems that affected Valimaki and Schwarz. Loix was pleased with his progress, but brake problems dropped Schwarz and Valimaki behind former World Champion Ari Vatanen in the overall standings.

"It was difficult with the misfire on the middle loop of stages but I really enjoyed the long stage today," said Loix, "Generally the car has been good today and I'm quite happy with my times."

Schwarz added: "The brakes have been giving us problems today but generally the handling is good and we've been able to set much better times."

Valimaki continued: "So far I've been very happy with the way the Accent has been performing. You can always want to go faster but an all-round package is important and the Accent has been good so far for that."

Skoda's Didier Auriol did not start the rally yesterday morning as a result of an old shoulder injury. The remaining Fabia WRC of Toni Gardemeister retired at the start of SS13 as a result of engine damage.

Gardemeister started off the day in 12th place, which he held up until his retirement. His engine stalled on the start of SS13, and he could not get it going again despite the advice from his team over the telephone.

Gardemeister said: "I'm disappointed we had to retire because until then everything on the car was working well. We have learned a lot about transmission and suspension settings that will be good news for Rally Australia next month."

Of the other entries Suzuki driver Daniel Carlsson leads the FIA Junior World Rally Championship ahead of Renault driver Brice Tirabassi, who suffered a puncture on SS13. Ford driver Guy Wilks was third after a day that has been characterised by punctures for everyone.

Former World Champion Ari Vatanen has had another enjoyable day in his privateer Peugeot 206 WRC and has climbed to 12th overall overnight. Marcus Gronholm's prot?g? Juuso Pykalisto has ended the day ninth after a trouble-free second day on his first rally in a 2003-specification Peugeot 206 WRC. Ahead of him is his Peugeot-driving Finnish compatriot Sebastien Lindholm.

Rally statistics:

Starters: 59 crews (45 Group A and 14 Group N) started this morning.

Top retirements: Gronholm (FIN), Rovanpera (FIN), Hirvonen (FIN), Gardemeister (FIN), McRae (GB), Warmbold (D).

Today - Saturday 9 August: Leg 2 started from Jyvaskyla at 06h00 and covered 745.52km, including 167.92km on seven stages.

Tomorrow - Sunday 10 August: Leg 3 starts from Jyvaskyla at 08h00 and covers 359.03km, including 100.90km on six stages. The first car is expected to arrive back in Jyvaskyla, Pavilijonki Podium at 15h45.

Weather forecast: Partly cloudy, mainly dry, but chances of showers.

Stage by stage summary - Leg two:

SS11 Paijala (21.95kms):
1. Gronholm (FIN) Peugeot 11m 21.4
2. Martin (EE) Ford 11m 23.3
3. Rovanpera (FIN) Peugeot 11m 24.2

Leaders after SS11:
1. Martin (EE) Ford 1h 19m 39.8
2. Gronholm (FIN) Peugeot 1h 19m 40.5
3. Burns (GB) Peugeot 1h 20m 07.2

SS12 Ouninpohja 1 (33.24kms):
1. Gronholm (FIN) Peugeot 15m 31.0
2. Martin (EE) Ford 15m 35.4
3. McRae (GB) Citroen 15m 39.8

Leaders after SS12:
1. Gronholm (FIN) Peugeot 1h 35m 11.5
2. Martin (EE) Ford 1h 35m 15.2
3. Burns (GB) Peugeot 1h 35m 49.0

SS13 Urria (10.00kms):
1. Burns (GB) Peugeot 4m 48.4
2. McRae (GB) Citroen 4m 50.5
= Gronholm (FIN) Peugeot 4m 50.5
4. Sainz (E) Citroen 4m 50.7

Leaders after SS13:
1. Gronholm (FIN) Peugeot 1h 40m 02.0
2. Martin (EE) Ford 1h 40m 06.6
3. Burns (GB) Peugeot 1h 40m 37.4

SS14 Ouninpohja 2 (33.24kms):
1. McRae (GB) Citroen 15m 25.1
2. Burns (GB) Peugeot 15m 31.5
3. Loeb (F) Citroen 15m 32.0

Leaders after SS14:
1. Martin (EE) Ford 1h 55m 49.0
2. Burns (GB) Peugeot 1h 56m 08.9
3. Solberg (N) Subaru 1h 56m 59.9

SS15 Ehikki (14.91kms):
1. Burns (GB) Peugeot 6m 52.6
2. Sainz (E) Citroen 6m 54.4
3. McRae (GB) Citroen 6m 55.4

Leaders after SS15:
1. Martin (EE) Ford 2h 02m 48.4
2. Burns (GB) Peugeot 2h 03m 01.5
3. Sainz (E) Citroen 2h 03m 54.9

SS16 Moksi-Leustu (40.96kms):
1. Martin (EE) Ford 20m 39.2
2. Solberg (N) Subaru 20m 41.2
3. Burns (GB) Peugeot 20m 42.9

Leaders after SS16:
1. Martin (EE) Ford 2h 23m 27.6
2. Burns (GB) Peugeot 2h 23m 44.4
3. Sainz (E) Citroen 2h 24m 38.4

SS17 Himos (13.62kms):
1. Solberg (N) Subaru 7m 30.1
2. Martin (EE) Ford 7m 31.4
3. Sainz (E) Citroen 7m 33.9

Leaders after SS17:
1. Martin (EE) Ford 2h 30m 59.0
2. Burns (GB) Peugeot +1m 13.0
3. Sainz (E) Citroen +1m 13.3
4. Solberg (N) Subaru +1m 13.5
5. Loeb (F) Citroen +2m 02.6
6. Makinen (FIN) Subaru +2m 37.4
7. Tuohino (FIN) Ford +3m 25.0
8. Lindholm (FIN) Peugeot +3m 35.6
9. Pykalisto (FIN) Peugeot +5m 12.6
10. Loix (B) Hyundai +5m 54.6