555 SUBARU & PIRELLI LOOKING FOR JUSTIFIED VICTORY World Rally Championship: Round 8 - Greece - 2 June, 16:54 +0200 Hopes are high for the 1998 Acropolis Rally (June 7-9) and the 555 Subaru World Rally Team is justifiably confident...
555 SUBARU & PIRELLI LOOKING FOR JUSTIFIED VICTORY
World Rally Championship: Round 8 - Greece - 2 June, 16:54 +0200
Hopes are high for the 1998 Acropolis Rally (June 7-9) and the 555 Subaru World Rally Team is justifiably confident of victory in Greece following the domination by Colin McRae and Nicky Grist over the rock-strewn gravel roads in Argentina. Fifteen fastest stage times underscored the Scot's superiority in the Subaru Impreza 555 World Rally Car and, with point-scoring finishes in the South American event, the team now seeks maximum World Championship points that reflect the speed and control that Colin and team-mate Piero Liatti can command. Greece, like Argentina, is notoriously rough and, coupled with searing summer heat, is one of the toughest events on the World Rally Championship calendar. Nevertheless it is an event where the Subaru Impreza and Pirelli tyres have worked in harmony to net victories (Sainz/1994 and McRae/1996) twice in the last three years the 555 Subaru World Rally Team has entered this event McRae returns to Greece for the sixth time, buoyed by Argentina and despite mixed memories of the Acropolis Rally, confident that it is an event he runs well on. "We were the fastest in Argentina and although everyone is still close and things can change very quickly, Im confident of a good result," he said. "Many of this year's stages are different and by all accounts the conditions are meant to be better, but in general terms the roads are a lot harder with a rockier base, whereas in Argentina they were softer and more sandy. One of our main advantages in Greece has been tyres. The Pirelli's have definitely given us an edge in previous years, and if the conditions stay rough, this will help us again. The car essentially will be Argentinian specification, and hopefully this time we'll pick up the maximum points fifteen fastest stage times justify!" Team-mates Piero Liatti and Fabrizia Pons have only competed together in Greece once. A disappointing outing in Argentina did little to boost the Italian's confidence on gravel and failed to show his natural ability, but an impressive fourth place in his only Greek outing in 1996 demonstrates that Piero has the ability to bag a top podium position this year. "I like this rally, but it is tough because of the twisty roads, rocks and heat. It is very hard on tyres, possibly one of the hardest in the year, and the threat of punctures is constant and will probably go a long way to deciding the outcome of the event. For me the heat is tiring and I can lose up to three kilograms from sweating, so it is important to take lots of fluid and keep hydrated," said the Italian, who set some faster times than McRae in 1996. As Argentina demonstrated, the competition atop the leaderboard is intense, and for some the outcome was only decided on the final stage. Seven-tenths of a second was all that separated Ford's Juha Kankkunen from second position, and in Greece in 1997 the Finn missed out on victory by 17 seconds, albeit to team orders. Ford won their first World Championship event of the season here last year and with Carlos Sainz's victory, it was their first 1-2 since San Remo in 1993, as well as the first World Championship win with the Escort World Rally Car. For a manufacturer that has yet to taste victory this season, Greece is surely a prime target for Kankkunen and Bruno Thiry. In much the same way, Tommi Makinen cruised into third position last year, team-mate Richard Burns acknowledging the need for the Finn to take additional points. Makinen returns to Greece for the fourth time, never having won, while Burns, in only his second outing, will be anxious to swap his string of fourth positions this year for a podium placing. Toyota drivers Carlos Sainz and Didier Auriol collectively have the most experience of the World Championship contenders competing in Greece this year. Sainz has won three times (1990, 1994 and 1997) from eight starts, although his French team-mate has yet to take victory from six attempts. As the 1998 World Rally Championship enters the second half of the season, the championship is wide open with less than a handful of points separating the leading crews. In the Manufacturers' Championship, Subaru is on course for a fourth consecutive World title and, with some tactical manoeuvres still to be played, are likely to remain the dominant force. Leading Entries: 5 Carlos Sainz Toyota Corolla World Rally Car 3 Colin McRae Subaru Impreza 555 WRC98 1 Tommi Makinen Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution V 2 Richard Burns Mitsubishi Carisma GT 7 Juha Kankkunen Ford Escort World Rally Car 6 Didier Auriol Toyota Corolla World Rally Car 4 Piero Liatti Subaru Impreza 555 WRC98 8 Bruno Thiry Ford Escort World Rally Car 9 Freddy Loix Toyota Corolla World Rally Car 16 Yukihiko Sakurai Subaru Impreza 555 WRC97 21 Frederic Dor Subaru Impreza 555 WRC97