Hyundai Castrol World Rally Team crews Alister McRae and David Senior and Kenneth Eriksson and Staffan Parmander put in a solid performance on the fifth round of the FIA World Rally Championship, with Alister McRae bringing his Accent WRC to the finish in ninth position.

Both crews had a relatively trouble free event, with the Accent WRC continuing to prove it's improving pace and reliability and setting stage times closer to the front-runners than ever before. Almost all the stage times set by Alister McRae have been in the top ten, and Kenneth Eriksson set a sixth fastest stage time on the opening test of the final leg.

Despite making a confident start, both crews were forced down the order with severe damage caused by the rough conditions. After working their way to ninth position, the tailpipe on the car of the British pairing came loose after hitting a bank during the final stage, requiring the crew to stop to extinguish a resulting fire on two occasions.

"It was really frustrating losing time on leg one with the fire, as I think a points finish would have been possible if we hadn't lost all that time," commented McRae. "But the car ran really well throughout the event - the handling has felt good and I've been able to improve it by altering differential settings. It's clearly better than the first generation Accent as we've never been as close to the front-runners as we have on this rally."

The Swedish pair also had to extinguish a fire after going off the road and losing the bumper and tailpipe in the process, and lost time having to finish the stage with smoke in the car. That aside, Kenneth has driven at maximum attack, pushing as hard as he can to work his way up the field. He reached ninth position overall by the penultimate stage of the rally when he lost a wheel only 3km before the end of the stage.

"Everything was going really well on stage 20 - I was pushing as hard as I could but the left front corner was damaged in the rough stages causing the wheel to come off, so we had to stop," explained Eriksson. "It's a real pity because the car has been running really well and it's felt good throughout the rally. The car is improving all the time, and this event has been no exception, and I still believe it has the potential for a podium finish before the end of the season."

David Whitehead, Team Principal, is increasingly encouraged by the performance of the Hyundai Accent WRC?. "At the start of the rally we hoped to be in a points finishing position. If it hadn't been for the lost time due to the fires suffered, it looks like that would have been achievable for Alister [McRae]. But we have learnt a lot on only our second gravel event with the new car and this rally shows we have made steps forward with its reliability and performance, this being our fifth consecutive event that we have finished. We are now looking forward to Cyprus where we will try and secure some more points," concluded Whitehead.

News from our Hyundai's Rivals:

Reigning World Champion, Peugeot's Marcus Gronholm was the first major retirement on Sunday, when he went off the road 2km into stage 18 and broke his clutch in the process. The second remaining Peugeot of Didier Auriol followed suite when his front suspension broke during the penultimate stage of the event.

The fight between the Brits at the head of the field continued throughout the day with Colin McRae (Ford) holding onto his lead to win by a comfortable 26.9 seconds, ahead of Richard Burns (Subaru). The second Ford of Carlos Sainz, who has battled with severe back pain for the duration of the event, held position to take third place on the podium. Tommi Makinen (Mitsubishi), three times winner of this event, took fourth place followed by the second Subaru of young Norwegian Petter Solberg, in fifth.

The sixth round of the FIA World Rally Championship returns to Europe for one of the hottest and roughest rounds of the Championship, Cyprus Rally, which runs from June 1-3.