Sainz's ability to learn dominates opening day

The Spaniard Carlos Sainz yesterday dominated the opening day of the Cyprus Rally as the world championship leader Marcus Gronholm was forced to retire with electrical problems. Sainz, who last won a world event more than two years ago, set the early pace. He stormed to seven stage wins out of nine, with drivers faltering in temperatures of up to 30C.

The Spaniard Carlos Sainz yesterday dominated the opening day of the Cyprus Rally as the world championship leader Marcus Gronholm was forced to retire with electrical problems. Sainz, who last won a world event more than two years ago, set the early pace. He stormed to seven stage wins out of nine, with drivers faltering in temperatures of up to 30C.

The Ford driver encountered few problems throughout the day, powering through the twisty, dusty runs to finish the leg more than a minute clear of the Frenchman François Delecour. "I learned the stages very quickly. The loose gravel makes it very difficult but running first on the second leg shouldn't be a problem," Sainz said.

Delecour was fortunate to remain in second spot after running out of fuel before the final service. He survived on two litres of fuel over the last 20 kilometres and pushed his Peugeot into the time control without incurring a penalty.

The Subaru driver Richard Burns, who surrendered his series advantage to Gronholm in Finland three weeks ago, overcame a faulty throttle pedal to remain in contention before a spin on the eighth stage cost him more than 30 seconds. He finished the day 3.3sec behind Delecour. The Briton said: "Running first on the road is making it very hard to catch Carlos. There is no chance of tactics on this rally, you just have to attack as hard as you dare."

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