2003 World Rally champion Petter Solberg continues to lead the Acropolis Rally tonight [Saturday] and the Subaru driver has an 28.5 second lead heading into the final leg tomorrow.

The Norwegian's day though has not been without dramas and a loss of brakes in SS13 cost him around 25 seconds.

At the end of SS16, it appeared he had a 58.5 second advantage over Harri Rovanpera, however it was later announced that he had been handed a 30 second time penalty, something which means tomorrow will be a lot tighter than first thought.

Related Articles

Speaking prior to the stewards' decision, 'Hollywood' said: "Today I've been keeping one eye on the split times and trying to keep myself out of trouble. On the whole it's been a very good day but there's still a long way to go before we can think about a party..."

The penalty, which was a result of a minor technical infringement, the Impreza left service this afternoon with no rear mud-flaps, left Subaru team boss, David Lapworth red faced.

"On behalf of our team I would like to apologise to World Champion Petter Solberg that a common, minor technical infringement has resulted in a halving of his rally lead," he noted. "Our oversight in not re-fitting the mud-flaps provided no competitive advantage whatsoever and occurred when replacing the damaged rear bumper of his car. We hope that the penalty will have no bearing on the result of this rally."

Rovanpera meanwhile has enjoyed a relatively trouble-free day while Sebastien Loeb has powered from an overnight fifth to third, overhauling Francois Duval in the process as the trio battle for second position - only 8.8 seconds separates the 307WRC from the Xsara, while Duval is only a further 9.6 seconds adrift.

"I pushed hard all day, and I will continue tomorrow," pledged Loeb. "My Xsara is perfect, second place is within reach, and I will do everything I can to claim it."

Duval added: "I'm pushing hard but at the same time trying to preserve the car. The Focus is strong but in these conditions it's important to be careful and ease off sometimes. It's still close between the three of us and tomorrow will be an exciting day."

A comfortable fifth position is held by Daniel Carlsson, who ends the leg as the lead privateer, in his Bozian ran Peugeot 206 WRC.

Gilles Panizzi is sixth for Mitsubishi, with a healthy lead over Manfred Stohl, following Mikko Hirvonen's cooling problem in SS15. Although the Finn kept going, his roll was to prove terminal, and he failed to make it back to service following the final test of the day.

"Obviously I'm very disappointed to have finished like this," commented Hirvonen, "especially as I felt I was making good progress with my driving, but when I came around the corner there was just nothing I could do to miss the rock."

Peugeot's Marcus Gr?nholm was the only other leading retirement during the day, the Finn out near the start of SS11. The Peugeot 307 ace went off the road in SS10 and despite attempting repairs and starting the following stage, terminally damaged rear suspension forced him onto the sidelines.

"It's a big disappointment for me, and unfortunately it was just my fault," said the Finn. "I slid a bit wide on a corner at the very end of the stage, and hit a rock with the left rear wheel. That damaged the lower suspension triangle, and I knew it would be difficult to carry on - especially as there were three stages left to run before service. Eventually the differential ran out of oil and we stopped."

Of the rest three private Ford's complete the overall top ten, Janne Tuohino leading Aris Vovos in ninth, while Anthony Warmbold is tenth.

In the Junior WRC, Guy Wilks leads for Suzuki, however his team-mates, Kosti Katajamaki and Mirco Baldacci, who were first and second overall at the end of yesterday's leg have both retired. Larry Cols and Nicolas Bernardi therefore move up to complete the 'Junior' podium places.

In total ten more competitors retired today, leaving 38 in the overall classification, seven of them in the JWRC.

Tomorrow many may re-start, under the new 'SupeRally' rule, today eleven drivers took advantage of this, including Markko Martin, Daniel Sola, Toni Gardmeister and Armin Schwarz.

The FIA's latest 'experiment' has met with mixed responses thus far though. Martin is one that is not overly keen.

"It's difficult to raise your game when there is nothing to fight for," he said. "To set fastest times you have to be in competition mode. It was also hard to try new parts because in an ideal test you drive the same road again and again to make comparisons, which obviously we can't do here on a rally."

Sola however, like the Skoda duo, was more positive.

"I am beginning to feel like I have the car in my hands and my confidence is growing," noted the Spaniard. "I want more to understand what is going on and why and these regulations are giving us that opportunity, so I am happy."

The final leg tomorrow [Sunday] is the shortest of the rally and comprises two loops of three tests north-west of Lamia, around the Timphristos mountains. Drivers depart Lamia at 06.30 and return for the finish ceremony at 14.53 after 98.50km of competition [all times local].