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Xevi Pons fourth in Australia
Australia : Kronos Citroen WRT - Leg 2
After an action-packed opening leg, day two of the Rally Australia was considerably calmer. The two Kronos Total Citroen Xsara WRCs enjoyed a trouble-free run through all the stages. Xevi Pons and Carlos Del Barrio end the day in fourth
place. Having picked up 40 minutes of road penalties yesterday, Dani Sordo and Marc Marti are currently in 30th position.

The format of leg two was identical to that of the previous day, starting with a loop of stages in the morning to the south of Rally HQ. This time it was the famous Bunnings stages in the Sotico complex, rather than the Murray stages run yesterday morning. Then the route moved to the east of Perth towards the Helena river, for a re-run of Beraking and Flynns in the afternoon. Finally, the crews went to the head-to-head Perth City superspecial, run for the fifth and sixth times.

Last year, Xevi Pons and Manfred Stohl were team mates at Kronos Racing, and they met once more in a fierce battle this morning. Both drivers were victims of a surprising change to the established running order – to the benefit of Marcus Grönholm and Chris Atkinson. Pons and Stohl had to run two places higher up the order than they expected : a big disadvantage as Australia is the most crucial event of the year to have a clean road and a decent starting position.

Xevi and Manfred took this setback in their stride, despite a tooth and nail battle for the final podium place claimed by Pons the night before.
Manfred took the place by just 0.1 seconds after SS13. Xevi replied by matching his overall time exactly on the next stage (SS14), but dropped a few seconds to his rival on the afternoon stages before the Gloucester Park superspecial.

The Spaniard said : « I wasn't really able to fight back on the afternoon stages, partly because I had chosen a soft BFGoodrich tyre that was not correct for the road conditions. It had rained, but the road had dried out completely. Suddenly our car was moving about a lot, which is not what you need when the roads are this fast. Manfred is only 20 or so seconds ahead though so the fight is not over yet. I'm going to go for it, but I will also remember that it is crucial for us to finish – both in terms of the manufacturers' championship and to stay ahead of Marcus [Grönholm] »

Dani Sordo had to get to grips with the unique Australian conditions today. The reigning Junior World Champion was happy with his work. « It was good to have started with Bunnings, which are wide and fast stages, » he said.

« I wasn't as confident in the afternoon for my first run through Beraking, which was narrower and more difficult. I also discovered there that my notes were far from perfect. I came to Australia with little confidence, as I had been warned about this rally many times. It's quite something to be flying through these tree-lined roads with so little grip…. My feeling now is that this is a rally one would grow to like with time and experience. I think we have worked well today. I know where I've lost time and I know where I'm going to lose some more, but this is what learning is all about. Looking at the time sheets, I'm not too unhappy – bearing in mind my position of second on the road, my inexperience of the stages, and my determination not to make any mistakes. »
Press release Citroen Kronos WRT

     Hirvonen in charge as Ford dominates leg two
     Wilson & Companc on top form Down Under
     Finns on a mission in Australia
     The end of a long & exciting day
     Encouraging performance by Subaru in Australia
     Hirvonen leads for Ford after dramatic opening
     Positive day for Manfred Stohl
     Tough opening leg for Stobart Team
     Yassen and Dilyan Popov avoid engine failure
     Xevi Pons : mission podium !

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