Spain's Carlos Sainz held the top spot in the Argentina Rally on Friday, holding
off challenges from four other drivers on the opening day.
Spain's Carlos Sainz finished in a time of 1:54:1
Sainz, driving a Citroen Xsara, completed the first 13 stages in 1:54:1, leaving him 22.4 seconds ahead of Estonia's Markko Martin.
England's Richard Burns trailed in third in his Peugeot 206 WRC, 40 seconds off the pace, followed closely by Harri Rovanpera of Finland and France's Sebastien Loeb.
Only 50 seconds separated the top five racers, who alternately won most of the day's final stages.
Saainz edged Gronholm to move into the top spot after winning the seventh stage in a day of racing through loops and sideways around this mountainous region in central
1.C Sainz, Spain, Citroen, 1:54:1
2.M Martin, Estonia, Ford, 22.4secs behind
3.R Burns, England, Peugeot, 40.1.
4.H Rovanpera, Finland, Peugeot, 41.8.
5.S Leob, France, Citroen, 50.2
Britain's Colin McRae, one of the circuits top drivers, crashed out of the rally in the ninth stage when an apparent engine problem triggered a fire that officials said may have been caused by leaking fuel.
But he was not the only to face car troubles.
Gronholm edged across the finish line missing the left rear wheel of his Peugeot 206, and Martin grappled with a gearbox problem that forced him to slip temporarily on the
But Gronholm recovered in the 12th stage, clocking the fastest time.
The fifth round of the World Rally championship opened Thursday night and runs through Sunday with 78 participants.