Gronholm waits in Panizzi's wake

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The Independent Online

Marcus Gronholm battled through an unexpected shower to claim victory in the final stage on the opening day of the Tour de Corse keeping the leader, Gilles Panizzi, firmly in his sights.

Panizzi, the French asphalt expert, secured four wins from the five special stages, but his Peugeot team-mate is only three seconds behind after a late win in the wet when Panizzi came home 12th, more than 13 seconds slower than the Finn.

Gronholm ended the day ahead of the world champion Richard Burns, 25.1secs off the lead, as Peugeot chased a clean-sweep. Burns has been steadily settling into the car over his first two events and is now well placed to challenge for his first victory as Peugeot team leader.

By contrast, fellow Brit Colin McRae has not had a happy day, ending the day in seventh spot, his Ford just over a minute behind Panizzi's mark. "The overall performance of my car could be better," said McRae. "I can't get into the rhythm.

The Scot's younger brother Alister McRae, meanwhile, is struggling near the foot of the top 20. The Mitsubishi Lancer is still in the early phase of its development and brake problems slowed McRae dramatically on stage three.

The only driver to seriously challenge the leading Peugeots was Subaru's Petter Solberg. Never outside the top three over the first trio of stages, Solberg then spun off the road on the penultimate stage.