Colin McRae and Nicky Grist are the new leaders of this seventh round of the FIA World Rally Championship after Ford Rallye Sport team-mates Markko M?rtin and Michael Park had to stop and change a tyre during the longest stage of the rally.

McRae's Ford Focus RS World Rally Car led fellow Briton Richard Burns by 20.2sec as the cars arrived at the Parnassos service with two of the day's six tests remaining.

M?rtin, who had led the rally from the very first kilometre yesterday morning, now lies ninth after dropping 3min 30sec in the panoramic 37.16km Elatia test.

"It's hard to describe how I feel at the moment," said M?rtin. "The tread started to come off the right rear tyre halfway through the stage and we had to stop and change it because it was damaging the car. The rally had been fantastic up to this point. We hadn't made any mistakes and I felt really comfortable. That's the way the sport goes sometimes but I feel we've made our point."

The wrecked tyre was examined in the service park and team director Malcolm Wilson said it appeared that the rubber had initially been damaged by a rock.

McRae reflected on being the new leader. "It's unfortunate for Markko but now we're in pole position. But there's a long way to go with some difficult stages to come. The roads are quite rough tomorrow, Richard Burns and Marcus Gr?nholm are close behind us and they will push as hard as they can to catch us. We must try to play safe now. No matter what the lead, it's never comfortable until the rally is over," said the 33-year-old Scot.

Team-mates Carlos Sainz and Luis Moya moved up to fourth as a result of M?rtin's puncture. The Spaniard raised the height of his car's suspension at the previous service, expecting the 17.34km Mendenitsa test, which followed Elatia, to be rougher than the stages to date. However, organisers cancelled the stage for safety reasons so Sainz was unable to benefit from the move.