Auriol has swiftly come to terms with the Lancer Evolution III on his first rally for the team and was fastest on the third stage of the second leg, climbing to fourth place. Michelin's Z90 tyres worked perfectly in cool, dry conditions.
Unfortunately, a technical hitch with the four-wheel-drive system coupled to appalling weather conditions prevented the 38-year-old Frenchman from capitalising on his strong position during the afternoon.
"Certainly I can go better, but the car is fantastic when everything is going well," he reflected after a difficult day.
His Lancer Evolution III can still score vital points in the World Championship and has been fully set up for the asphalt stages that make up the final leg of the 1,950-kilometre rally.
"Today started off quite well, with Didier settling into a quick pace. I think he's done well to minimise the time loss," said Phil Short, Team Winfield Mitsubishi Ralliart's Team Manager. "It'll be difficult to win from this position, but I'm sure he'll go well with the car re-fettled, which could let us move up the order and help us learn something for Catalonia."
Gustavo Trelles of Uruguay has settled into a comfortable pace at the head of the Group N, production class field and could take the lead of the Group N World Championship in his Lancer Evolution III.
Overcast skies gave way to torrential rain in the afternoon that made the dirt roads of Tuscany as slippery as a skating rink. Colin McRae took advantage of the conditions to consolidate his lead over Spanish rival Carlos Sainz.
Competitors face another 130 kilometres of stages before the finish in Sanremo on Wednesday afternoon. More bad weather is forecast, which could well turn the leaderboard upside down by the end of the rally.
|1. C. McRAE/D. RINGER||GB/GB||SUBARU IMPREZA 555||2.49.42||2. C. SAINZ/L. MOYA||E/E||FORD ESCORT COSWORTH||+ 0.32|
|3. P. LIATTI/F. PONS||I/I||SUBARU IMPREZA 555||+ 0.36|
|4. K. ERIKSSON/S. PARMANDER||S/S||SUBARU IMPREZA 555||+ 0.54|
|5. B. THIRY/S. PREVOT||B/B||FORD ESCORT COSWORTH||+ 1.00|
|6. G. CUNICO/P. SCALVINI||I/I||FORD ESCORT COSWORTH||+ 2.39|
|7. G. PIANEZZOLA/L. ROGGIA||I/I||TOYOTA CELICA||+ 2.53|
|8. F. LOIX/S. SMEETS||B/B||TOYOTA CELICA||+ 3.14|
|9. D. AURIOL/D. GIRAUDET||F/F||MITSUBISHI LANCER EVOLUTION III||+ 3.15|
|10.A. MEDEGHINI/"MEDEGHINI"||I/I||SUBARU IMPREZA 555||+ 4.19|