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Gronholm heads rally in Cyprus on day one.

"Well, It's been another day of learning for me and more experience in the car," said the Finn, "We had a trouble free run and I think I've learnt a lot. I'm certainly not happy with my pace at the moment, but going flat out isn't really the immediate objective. I was happiest with the last stage [SS6] and I'm hoping there will be more improvement tomorrow."

Of the rest Janne Tuohino head the 'privateers' in seventh, while Mitsubishi's Gilles Panizzi, Henning Solberg and Anthony Warmbold completed the top ten.

Panizzi was unhappy with his suspension this morning but team-mate Kristian Sohlberg suffered worse. His car's sump guard broke on the second stage, costing more than 2 minutes 30 seconds and a slipping clutch throughout the afternoon cost another 11 minutes. He is 16th.

Mario Fornaris, technical director at Mitsubishi, said: "I am quite happy, firstly because we have two cars that have made it through the day's stages and secondly because we have made improvements during the day. I cannot say we are totally happy with the car, but we are understanding more and getting the experience and for that I am happy."

Despite the Cyprus Rally only qualifying for full FIA World Rally Championship points, a host of Group N drivers are vying for honours in this highly-competitive category. Local man Andreas Tsouloftas currently leads the contenders in his Lancer Evolution [14th overall] with no fewer than four other Lancers at the top of the Group N leaderboard at the end of a long, dry and dusty day of competition.

In total 38 cars started today's leg, and seven retired.

The second leg tomorrow [Saturday] covers similar twisty gravel tracks and is again based out of the service park in Lemesos. It follows the same format as today, with two identical loops of three speed tests. They are located further south, close to Mt Olympus, and further west in less mountainous areas towards the coastal resort of Paphos. After leaving Lemesos at 07.45, competitors return for the final overnight halt at 18.57 after 109.56km of competition.


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