The 47 competitors still left in this final round of the FIA World Rally Championship faced another early start as they left Cardiff at 05.20 this morning for the final day's competition in the forests of south Wales.

Just three stages lay in wait - two passes through the challenging and twisty 30.61km Rhondda test in the shadow of Rhigos mountain and the 12.64km Margam Park, which ends right in front of the historic Margam House.

The action began in Rhondda and Ford BP Rallye Sport drivers Francois Duval and Stephane Prevot, who started this morning in sixth position, climbed to fifth in their Focus RS World Rally Car following the retirement of Harri Rovanpera. The Finn retired from fifth with a transmission problem 12km into the stage, at exactly the same point as Toni Gardemeister went out having gone off into a ditch.

Duval was seventh fastest through the test, extending his advantage over closest rival Freddy Loix to 43.9sec. "It was quite foggy," said the 22-year-old Belgian. "But it was foggy on the fast straights and not in the slow corners so that was quite difficult. It cost us quite a lot of time because we had to slow down. The car feels perfect again today and I'm concentrating on reaching the finish now."

Rovanpera's retirement allowed Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila to move into tenth in their 2001-specification Focus RS, run by M-Sport.

"After 2km there was a very foggy section and then we had intermittent fog for the rest of the stage," said 18-year-old Latvala. "I slowed down because I want to keep my top 10 position and the time gaps are such that we can't make up any places unless the cars ahead of us have problems."

Cars now return to Rhondda for a second run through the stage before the final test in Margam Park.



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