Scotland's Colin McRae, driving a Ford Focus, held on to his lead in the ultra-tough Acropolis Rally midway through Saturday's second day of the seventh leg of the world championship.
McRae maintained a 32.5sec advantage on Ford teammate Carlos Sainz of Spain, with world championship leader Richard Burns of Britain 2min 24.4sec behind in a Subaru following ten of the 19 special stages.
The Ford drivers forged ahead as many leading contenders fell by the wayside during Saturday's tough stages over rocky and mountainous roads in hot weather above Delphi.
Finland's Marcus Gronholm was forced out with engine problems 9.5km from the finish of the 25.5km ninth special stage.
Gronholm, who won Friday's first stage, managed to claw his way back to seventh position following the eight special stage Saturday after being in 20th position following the opening day's five special stages.
Gronholm's withdrawal along with Friday's retirement of reigning champion and compatriot Tommi Makinen in a Mitsubishi Lancer gives championship leader Burns the opportunity to increase his lead.
Earlier on Saturday, the 1994 world champion Auriol lost the front left wheel of his Seat Cordoba during the sixth special stage, but still managed to finish on three wheels.
It has not been a good day for Seat as their second official driver Toni Gardmeister of Finland also pulled out with steering problems – (AFP)
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