Ford team leader Markko Martin struck back today [Saturday] on the Rallye de France-Tour de Corse, winning the opening stage to re-take the lead of the event, and demote team-mate, Francois Duval to second.

Martin held onto that lead through the remaining three tests, and although Duval was quickest in SS7, to reduce the Estonian's lead, Martin was having none of it, and went fastest again in the final test of the day, to increase his lead again. He ends the second leg with a 20.8 second advantage.

"It's been a difficult, but good, day," said Martin. "We've had every type of weather you can imagine in the mountains. One moment it's nice and the next it's raining. It changed all the time and it worried me all day.

"I have a good set-up on my car. It's not perfect, it never is in Corsica, but it's worked superbly for me. If we don't make any big mistakes with our tyre selection, then I don't think the other teams can catch us."

Overall Ford dominated, as they did yesterday, one-two in all the stages, bar the final one, where Sebastien Loeb split the two Ford Focus'.

Their form will have pleased team boss, Malcolm Wilson, especially as the future of the outfit in the WRC has still to be confirmed.

It wasn't all plain sailing though for the M-Sport ran squad, Martin's car caught fire after completing the final stage, and the Estonian was forced to stop to extinguish the flames before proceeding to final service!

"To see flames coming out from under the bonnet was not a nice feeling," added Martin. "We put the fire out at the finish, but we were lucky that we were able to drive straight to service because the power steering stopped working on the liaison section."

Sebastien Loeb remains third in his Citroen Xsara WRC, and still on course for the title, the Frenchman had an uneventful day, and although quick, could do nothing to stop the Ford's. It appears he has now settled for third, and the final spot on the podium, as he is 40 seconds behind Duval in second, and a minute ahead of Carlos Sainz in fourth.

"I have to keep my concentration," said Loeb. "It will be necessary if tomorrow's leg is like the one we had today. However, I must say that I am not displeased to have managed, to maintain my pace in the difficult sections, pushing just as much as was necessary to keep my tyres working properly. I will try to continue along the same lines tomorrow. But don't talk to me about the title before 2 pm tomorrow!"

Marcus Gronholm is fifth for Peugeot, the Finn though again struggled, and was complaining that he didn't feel comfortable in his 307.

Freddy Loix is eighth in the other Peugeot, while Cedric Robert went out on SS5, after spinning his car and hitting a wall. The Frenchman was uninjured.

"About two kilometres into the stage [SS5], there was a right hand corner with some water on the inside. Unfortunately I underestimated the extent of it and we slid into a wall, damaging the radiator and putting us out of the rally," explained Robert.

Of the rest, Petter Solberg and Subaru continue to lack speed, although the Norwegian has managed to move up to sixth, following Robert's retirement. His team-mate, Mikko Hirvonen, languishes down in eleventh, the lowest of the works drivers.

"It's been a very difficult day for us again," said 'Hollywood'. "The frustrating thing is that the car feels good and we've seen glimpses of the pace we need, but at the end of the day we just can't catch the leaders."

Stephane Sarrazin is seventh, in his Subaru Impreza, and currently the best of the privateers.

Skoda meanwhile have managed to break into the top ten, with Armin Schwarz ninth and Toni Gardemeister tenth. Schwarz had a gear-shift problem in SS6, but despite losing more than a minute and a half remains in front of his team-mate.

In the Production Car category, Xavier Pons remains set to take the class win, over 2 minutes up on Brit Niall McShea, while Alister McRae is third. Mark Higgins and Fumio Nutahara round off the class top five.

42 competitors completed today's 154 competitive kilometres, 5 more forced out, on what is again turning out to be a rally of low attrition.

The final leg tomorrow [Sunday] remains unaltered from last year and is the shortest of the rally. Competitors leave Ajaccio at 07.20 and tackle two identical loops of two stages to the south, divided by a return to the service park in the city. The four stages comprise 112.10km. Cars return for the finish ceremony in Ajaccio at 14.30.