Manfred Stohl has taken the lead following day two of the 'Rally of Nations' event, being run to cover Mexico's absence from this year's World Rally Championship calendar.

Stohl, who had begun the second leg 31.1 seconds adrift of P1, managed to get in front in SS10, the first run through the 39.67 kilometre Alfaro-Duarte test, when his fellow countryman and Team Austria team-mate, Andreas Aigner suffered a puncture.

In the end Stohl completed Saturday's action with a 7.5 second advantage, although technical gremlins could yet stop him from defending his position.

"We've got a problem with the engine, but I hope we can run tomorrow," Stohl explained. "I don't exactly know what's going on with the engine but they're checking it.

"There was not much strategy today. The stages were a bit slower and more difficult. The distance also makes it even harder. In the long stages the engine gets hot. The only strategy was to try and stay alive."

Aigner meanwhile was happy despite slipping down to second behind Stohl: "It was a fantastic day for us," he continued. "The long stages were hard, but we had no problems, just a small one with a flat we had to change during the first run of the 40-km stage.

"When you compare yourself to the other drivers, you see they haven't been doing that well, so for us it's been a good day. The car was good, just a few problems with the brakes, but I think everybody had them, because it was a long distance and we have small brakes in the car.

"Tomorrow is a short day, so we'll just try to keep the car on the road and stay in the same position. We already know the stages from Friday, and there is no loose gravel anymore, so it shouldn't be a problem. But we'll be see what happens. I hope that Manfred's car is still going, and we keep going like now and get to the finish line 1-2 for Austria."

Former World Rally champion Didier Auriol is next up and on course for the final podium position, albeit 40 seconds off Stohl. Auriol had a positive day, but it wasn't so good for his Team France colleague, Brice Tirabassi, who had to stop due to engine/brake issues.

"It was a good day for me," said Auriol, "but not for the team, because Tirabassi couldn't run anymore. Tomorrow will be calmer, so we will see what happens."

Further down the order, Xavier Pons is fourth and despite the exit of Dani Sola, Team Spain remain top in the Nations competition, 93 points ahead of Team Austria - 930.5 versus 837.5. Team France lies third on 707 points, with Germany fourth (482 points) and Team Mexico 2 fifth (261.5 points).

"It's been a pretty tough day," Pons reflected. "The 40 km stage was very long and very hard, but we're happy with how things went. We have a problem with the car, but everybody's had them, so let's think about tomorrow. Hopefully we'll win as a country."

Of the rest, Germany's Mark Wallenwein and Hermann Gassner Jr came in fifth and sixth, the latter doing especially well as he is struggling with an upset stomach.

"For us it's been a great day because the other teams struggled a bit. We had no major problems, just one with the brakes which heated up twice, but it was at the end of the stage," said Wallenwein.

"In the end, we're very lucky, we had no problems with the car. Tomorrow we'll try to maintain our position and complete the rally."

Ricardo Trivino leads the locals and is seventh, even though radiator issues cost him ten minutes on Friday and dropped him down to 22nd place, while Matthew Johnson, Rodrigo Ord??ez and Kenny Bartram round out the top ten.

"Everything was good today," Trivino stated. "We've made up the time we lost yesterday when we dropped out. We did the best time for Mexico and we are the best Mexican team. I think we are in seventh or eighth position overall. Without the 10 minutes we lost yesterday, today we could've been in fifth place, but that's the way it is."

In terms of retirements, in addition to Sola and Tirabassi, the stages in the Guanajuato sierra also took their toll on several other runners - including Sweden's Per Gunnar Andersson and Patrik Sandell, both forced out due to mechanical issues.

The action now concludes on Sunday. The final leg includes just two stages - the 17.94 kilometre Comanjilla 3 test and a fifth and final run through the short 4.42 kilometre Scotiabank SSS.



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