25 October 2003
Loeb remains in control in Spain.
Sainz noted: "Taking the wrong suspension this morning was not good, it cost me a little confidence in the car I had some moments this morning trying to keep the pace in the car, it wasn't so nice. I have spent the rest of the day trying to get the confidence back. Swapping the suspension back to how it was yesterday was better."
Once the team had fitted new discs and pads to McRae's Citroen following SS11, the Scot was able to push harder and posted fifth quickest through the second run at Sant Julia, cementing his seventh and closing slightly on Burns' sixth position.
"The brakes were starting to go after about five kilometres [this morning]," explained McRae. "It was bad, because I was having to touch the brakes before I braked properly, just to make sure they were there and working. That does take some of your confidence in the car. After that it was good, we were able to be back on the pace, which I'm happy with."
Philippe Bugalski spent most of the morning chasing McRae, but as Marcus Gronholm finally dialled himself into his Peugeot, the Frenchman's attack turned to defence. He surrendered eighth to the 206 driver on SS12.
Bugalksi said: "I have a much better feeling with the car today. We've been able to go harder, it's just a shame that Marcus has come past."
At Ford Markko Martin's Focus ran reliably, while Francois Duval's Ford was hit by brake problems on the middle loop of today's stages. Mikko Hirvonen's 2002 also suffered brake trouble in the first loop of three stages this morning.
Given the problems he is having with his neck, Martin's pace was once again impressive throughout the second leg of stages. The Estonian was having ice packed around the swollen muscles at each service point to try and ease the discomfort. Despite those problems, he still managed to edge out Peugeot's Panizzi in a fight for second place.
Once again Duval's times improved on the second run at today's stages, the Belgian held fifth place at the end of the second leg – just a handful of seconds behind Sainz. Following his brake problems earlier in the day, the team decided to change the pedal box at the lunchtime service. Unfortunately this took slightly longer than anticipated and Duval was hit with a ten-second penalty ahead of the final three stages of the day.
Mikko Hirvonen's brake trouble came earlier in the day – on the opening loop – after those, however he ran well through the five stages which remained gaining more valuable experience of the Catalan roads.
Martin said: "I preferred the shorter stages today – I didn't get so tired in those. The last stage today wasn't so good. When I was pulling my crash helmet on in the car, I must have knocked the roof vent closed, which meant I didn't get any air into the car. I felt really tired after the first two kilometres."
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