Marcus Gronholm is closing in on victory in Wales Rally GB after extending his advantage on the second day of competition in the Welsh forests.

The BP Ford man started the day with an advantage of 25.8secs over Petter Solberg with the Subaru man seemingly poised to try and launch an attack in his quest to secure a fifth straight Welsh win, but the wheels started to come off his challenge on the very first stage of the day.

The first run through Crychan saw Solberg lose time with a brief off into a ditch and when he then hit a gatepost in the afternoon run through Epynt and damaged his steering, the Norwegian's challenge effectively came to an end.

For Gronholm however, the day passed without major incident despite heavy rain hitting the stages to such an extent that some drivers claimed to be unable to see exactly where they were going as their windscreen wipers struggled to deal with the volume of water.

The Finn secured another five stage wins over the course of the day to head back to service following the Cardiff Superspecial in the Millennium Stadium with a healthy lead of just under a minute and 20 seconds.

"It was really slippery but there was no rain on the stages so conditions weren't too bad," Gronholm said. "The first cars on the road had an advantage in those conditions but there was nothing to worry about where I was. The surface was hard so the roads weren't cutting up. I made no mistakes and was able to ease off a little when I heard that Petter had gone off."

With Solberg's problems, second overnight is the OMV Peugeot of Manfred Stohl, although the Austrian driver was unable to match his front-running pace from the opening leg. Admitting that conditions were more difficult on the stages than on Friday, he was quickest through Crychan 2 but then struggled for pace in the following two 'big' stages before heading to Cardiff in what has become a lonely second place, with Gronholm seemingly out of touch ahead and Solberg some 50 seconds behind.

After blitzing SS6 on Friday afternoon, Solberg ended leg one with a smile on his face, but losing 30secs on SS7 on Saturday morning wasn't part of the plan for leg two. The Subaru man bounced back from the disappointment of that mistake to post top three times on the following two stages to ensure that he had reclaimed second spot from Stohl when the crews returned to Felindre and the mid-day service.

Despite setting a time slower than Stohl on the return to Crychan, Solberg retained second place heading on the Epynt stages before he fell foul of the same gatepost that forced Gronholm to retire two years ago. While the impact didn't prevent Solberg from getting out of the stage, damage to the steering saw him lose 50 seconds. As if that time loss wasn't bad enough, Solberg and Phil Mills were then faced with the long drive to and from Cardiff for the Superspecial, where Solberg still managed to out on a show for the fans with the stricken car.

However, Solberg can't afford to rest on his laurels going into the final leg, with Xavier Pons barely 20 second behind. The Kronos Citroen man had started the day fighting with team-mate Dani Sordo for fifth and stormed into the place on the first stage of the day with the fastest time through Crychan and then set about closing the gap to Jari-Matti Latvala ahead. Gradually closing on the young Finn in the Stobart VK backed Ford, Pons moved into fourth with the third quickest time on Epynt 2 and ends leg two just over 20 seconds behind Solberg.

Latvala meanwhile, struggled to match Pons' impressive pace over the course of the day, despite being in the top six on all bar one of the seven stages, but remains in touch in fifth place, under five seconds behind the Citroen and almost a minute clear of Chris Atkinson.

The Australian is far from secure in the position however after a strong day at the wheel of the First Motorsport Skoda Fabia for Francois Duval. Despite stating that he wasn't confident in the car and was only driving at 70 per cent, he remained in touching distance of the Subaru and will start the final leg just under eight seconds behind. Duval in turn holds a rather more comfortable advantage over Sordo in the second Citroen after gearbox problems in the morning stages dropped him down the order. Harri Rovanpera and Jan Kopecky round out the top ten while Matthew Wilson and Henning Solberg also made it safely to the end of the second leg.

However for both Mark Higgins and Gareth MacHale, the second leg would have a sting in the tale, Higgins going out after SS9 with engine problems and MacHale stopping on the road section en-route to the Millennium Stadium.

In the JWRC, the headline news of day concerned the two drivers who had led the way after leg one as both Kris Meeke and Guy Wilks were forced to retire from the leg, their title hopes in tatters as a result.

Meeke had overcome a puncture on the very first stage to establish a solid advantage but on SS8 he went off the road and handed the lead to Wilks. However a warning light on the Suzuki was an indication that all wasn't well in the yellow car and smoke under the bonnet at the end of the next stage was the beginning of the end - a gearbox problem putting him out in the service park.

It means Jaan Molder leads the way at the end of the leg, with Patrick Sandell only 5secs behind and poised to become the latest rookie driver to lift the JWRC title, with the title his by two points if the results stay as they are. However, should the Renault man hit problems, P-G Andersson could yet lift the crown as he lies fourth and is closing in on Luca Betti for third.

However P-G will still miss out on the title even if he takes third, with Sandell needing to outscore him by just two points to make the crown his. Even if Wilks restarts, he will be six minutes away from scoring a point, let alone getting the required total to go back into title contention.

Leg three gets underway at 07.47 local time on Sunday with the first run through Brechfa.