Fifty-four cars left Cardiff in darkness this morning for the second leg of this final round of the FIA World Rally Championship. Today's action features two loops of two speed tests this morning close to the Eppynt military land.

Drivers then return to the forests near Swansea for three more special stages, including a repeat of the 43.09km Resolfen, the longest test of the four-day rally. The day ends with a third and final run around the short super special stage in the heart of Cardiff.

The huge crowds expected to line the forest tracks today will notice a big difference in the weather. Yesterday's mild temperatures have been replaced by a biting wind, and the bright sunshine has been replaced by overcast skies, but it remains dry.

The day began with the 13.05km Crychan. But even before the action started, Ford BP Rallye Sport drivers Francois Duval and Stephane Prevot had climbed to sixth in their Focus RS World Rally Car when Gilles Panizzi retired with transmission problems on the liaison section to the stage.

Duval was sixth fastest through the stage and ninth quickest through the following 18.53km Halfway, a difficult mix of classic forest roads, a short asphalt section on the military ranges over the infamous Deers Leap jump and then onto fast sweeping roads across open moorland.

"My brakes were much better this morning and I feel happier with the mapping and set up of the car," said 22-year-old Duval. "Halfway was a tricky stage. We had a narrow escape on a difficult left bend which went into a crest immediately afterwards. We went wide over the crest and I struggled to keep the car on the road. The roads are quite slippery, but fairly dry."

Finns Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila climbed to 12th in their 2001-specification Focus RS, run by M-Sport. "Our only problem was avoiding Didier Auriol's car which had gone off the road in Crychan," said 18-year-old Latvala. "I had to slow and drive round his car and we dropped maybe seven or eight seconds. My confidence isn't perfect but I hope that will improve as the day goes on. After long straights, I find I'm braking far too early for corners."

Drivers now repeat both stages before returning to the Swansea service park.



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