Leg One News Despite having the worst of the road conditions, Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) ended the day with a 6.1sec advantage over Marcus GrÃ¶nholm (Peugeot). GrÃ¶nholm had the upper hand for most of the day, despite having to switch to a manual...
Leg One News
Despite having the worst of the road conditions, Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) ended the day with a 6.1sec advantage over Marcus Grönholm (Peugeot). Grönholm had the upper hand for most of the day, despite having to switch to a manual gearchange system this morning, but the Frenchman moved ahead with a blistering time on the final stage. Carlos Sainz (Citroen), competing on his final WRC rally, kept out of trouble to claim third, just 3.7sec ahead of Gardemeister. Behind Hirvonen, Harri Rovanperä (Mitsubishi) held sixth despite handling problems on both runs through the long stage at the end of each group. Petter Solberg (Subaru) is 14th after struggling with handling problems when he lost his car's spoiler after going off the road on the second stage. Then a broken rear driveshaft this afternoon cost almost three minutes. Team-mates Chris Atkinson and Stephane Sarrazin retired after stage six with engine and rear suspension problems respectively. Team-mates Armin Schwarz and Janne Tuohino (Skoda) were early casualties. Schwarz stopped with engine problems while Tuohino was sidelined with gearbox troubles.
Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena, Carlos Sainz/Marc Marti and their respective Xsara WRCs completed the first full day of the 2005 Acropolis Rally, run in scorching sunshine, in 1st and 3rd places in Lamia this evening. With fastest times to its name in four of the seven stages contested to date, Citroën has got its weekend in Greece off to a flying start.
Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena: "I didn't feel 100% comfortable. I was unsure of both my set-up and my driving, but at the end of the day I think this was probably due to the stages themselves as much as anything."
Carlos Sainz/Marc Marti: I obviously benefited from a cleaner surface. I tried to keep it very clean, taking extra care through the rougher portions. The balance of my Xsara suits me perfectly. It is more to my liking, more precise than in Turkey. I feel very confident. I used the narrow tyre for both loops and that proved perfect. I am obviously delighted to be in 3rd place this evening. It's a very good position for Citroën."
After a disappointing first Leg on the Acropolis Rally of Greece, Petter Solberg holds fourteenth position overall with two more days of competition remaining. Petter's chances of a good result were dealt a blow on the second stage of the rally, when his car slid off the road and into a ditch. Later on, a broken driveshaft severely limited his potential for recovery. Chris Atkinson and Stéphane Sarrazin achieved their primary objectives of learning more about their cars and the event. Both are hoping to re-start the rally tomorrow under Superally regulations after separate incidents caused them to retire on the penultimate stage today.
Petter Solberg/Phil Mills: "We've had such bad luck today and so many things have gone against us. Everything that we'd planned went completely wrong and I'm very disappointed. Damaging the driveshaft at such a critical part of the day, with three stages ahead, left me no opportunity to fight. It's very hard to accept, but that's just how it is. For now, I have to pick myself up, concentrate on the best possible finish and try my hardest tomorrow. This rally has shown that anything can happen, so we'll just have to see."
Chris Atkinson/Glen MacNeall: "My aim for this event was to get to the finish and because of that the strategy for today was to take a conservative approach, without too many risks, in order that we could learn more for later on. Things were going to plan, but we made some changes to the car at the mid-point service, which I think in hindsight made the car a bit too soft. We were able to drive around the problem though, but at the end of SS6 we encountered an engine problem and the team felt it was unwise to continue without a thorough investigation."
Stephane Sarrazin/Denis Giraudet: "Overall the car felt really good today. Had it not been for our punctures our times were good and I'm very pleased. I like the settings of the car and felt very comfortable. I am optimistic for tomorrow once we've completed the usual service this evening."
BP-Ford World Rally Team drivers Toni Gardemeister and Jakke Honkanen lie fourth after today's exciting and extremely demanding opening leg of the Acropolis Rally of Greece. Their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car has been in the midst of a thrilling battle at the head of the leaderboard which saw the top five cars covered by just 3.6 seconds at the midpoint of the day's action. The privately-entered Focus RS of fellow Finns Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen was also involved in the fight for top spot. They took full advantage of better road conditions lower down the start order to hold a surprise lead on this eighth round of the FIA World Rally Championship this morning. They are fifth tonight with another privately-entered Focus RS of Norwegians Henning Solberg and Cato Menkerud in seventh.
It was a disappointing day for BP-Ford team-mates Roman Kresta and Jan Mozný. The Czechs hit a bank just 3km after the start of the opening stage and snapped the front left steering arm on their Focus RS.
Toni Gardemeister/Jakke Honkanen: "I drove hard from the first kilometre and I'm really pleased with the day. The Focus handled perfectly and I've not made any changes to the settings. Our only problem was on the last stage of the morning group when the engine twice cut out briefly. I lost no more than a couple of seconds but I couldn't find anything wrong."
Roman Kresta/Jan Mozny: "It happened at a left-right corner, the same bend as Toni had a problem. I turned into the right bend over a dip and the car slid into the bank on the left, breaking the steering. I'm really disappointed because Malcolm had told me I could drive flat out and I was looking forward to the weekend," said Kresta. He will restart tomorrow in 50th place under the SupeRally regulations that allow retired competitors to restart the following day with a time penalty.
Marcus Gronholm showed himself to be completely at ease in the tough conditions, leading the rally before conceding a lead of just six seconds to Sebastien Loeb on the final stage. Marcus is nearly eight seconds ahead of Carlos Sainz, who is currently third.
Marcus Gronhölm/Timo Rautiainen: "It's been quite a good day for me, with only a small problem with the paddleshift on the steering wheel, which stopped working on SS3 and SS4. I had to use the back-up lever, which was much slower. I was also held back by my tyres, which went off from the middle of the two long 32-kilometre stages. But at the end of the day I am happy as I have set three fastest times and I am only six seconds behind Sebastien Loeb. I think tomorrow's stages will suit us better: these stages are the most difficult of the rally. The surfaces are very damaging, and our tyres should work well in these conditions. I'm going to attack!"
Markko Martin/Michael Park: "I don't really understand today. The car seemed difficult to drive; maybe my choice of tyres was not the best for the afternoon's loop of stages. Tomorrow I will go back to the tyre choice we had this morning, which seemed to work better for us."
Skoda Motorsport World Rally Team driver Jani Paasonen lies 12th overall after the opening day of the Acropolis Rally but team mates Armin Schwarz and Janne Tuohino were both forced to withdraw. Armin will continue under SupeRally but Janne has now retired from the event.
Armin Schwarz/Klaus Wicha: "We started to feel something was wrong as the first stage went on and the car gradually lost power then just stopped completely on the road section. We are not exactly sure what caused it but there was a lot of fuel in the engine area and I was worried that there might be a fire."
Janne Tuohino/Mikko Markkula: "The car was running fine in the early part of the stage and our split times were exactly as we had expected from testing. However we must have hit something in the middle of the road about 6kms from the end of the stage and when we tried to start the next stage the car wouldn't move."
Jani Paasonen/Jani Vainikka: "I have tried to keep my driving neat and careful today because I know I couldn't repeat what happened in Mexico. The car is fine and apart from making some minor adjustments I am very happy with how today has gone."
At the end of the opening leg of the Acropolis Rally, the eighth round of the FIA World Rally Championship, the Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports WRC crew of Harri Rovanperä/Risto Pietiläinen head the team assault in sixth position. Lancer WRC05 team-mates "Gigi" Galli and Guido D'Amore have maintained a consistent pace and climb from an earlier 10th to eighth overall in only their second visit to Greece.
Harri Rovanpera/Risto Pietilainen: "Things are going quite well, but the long stages (SS4/7) were quite tough for us. In the one this morning the handling went very strange in the last 8-10 kilometers because the tires went off, and during the same stage this afternoon it was like the dampers weren't working one hundred percent. It's difficult to know exactly what was happening, but our position is not so bad and we will keep pushing hard tomorrow."
Gigi Galli/Guido D'Amore: "I am quite happy because our strategy is working. This morning I was quite careful but I then drove a bit more aggressively over the same stages this afternoon. For sure it was easier with the notes in the second lap, because once you have done the stages in the rally car you have a better feeling and can make small changes to the notes. We had a bit of a problem with the front brakes this morning, but I think that was my fault because I'm on them too much, again because of our lack of experience here. This afternoon we just had one spin (SS5); we had a right rear puncture and it just took a little longer for the EMI to work. Tomorrow, our plan will stay the same and we will see what we can do."