Peugeot headed the timesheets on the shakedown test stage for this weekend's Rally of New Zealand, but Marcus Gronholm has played down his prospects of snatching his third victory in four years.

Though Peugeot headed the timesheets on the shakedown test stage for this weekend's Rally of New Zealand, Marcus Gronholm has played down his prospects of snatching his third victory in four years.

The team's service area was buzzing after the test and while the car was said to have been greatly improved, the 307s' speed should be a poor indicator of what is likely to happen.

Since the Rally of Mexico, Peugeot has modified both the power steering and differentials to counteract vibrations and up the performance. Gronholm said that the four-speed gearbox was more of a handicap on fast rallies like New Zealand.

"When it's slower, it's better. You are hesitating on the medium-fast corners. The diffs are not so bad. We can fight for the win here if the car works, I think, but it will not be easy," Gronholm said.

Petter Solberg, who debuted the new 2004-spec Subaru on the last round of the championship in Mexico and set a thundering pace, was the best of the rest on the 4.5km Komokoriki Road stage.

Peugeot 206 drivers Henning Solberg and Daniel Carlsson were also well up on the pace with fourth and sixth best times. Sebastien Loeb split the pair in the new 2004 Citroën Xsara, although Carlos Sainz was not too pleased with the set-up of the new car with its lightweight body panels, revised weight distribution and extra power.

"The weight distribution's the biggest thing," World Championship points leader Loeb said. "The car's a lot more agile and easier to drive. It should be easier on the tyres too, but we'll have to wait for the rally."

Original article from Car