Petter Solberg finished the Acropolis Rally of Greece with a flourish by winning every gravel stage of the Leg. The Norwegian proved the speed of his Impreza WRC2006 in the most difficult stage conditions seen so far this year. But even Solberg's...
Petter Solberg finished the Acropolis Rally of Greece with a flourish by winning every gravel stage of the Leg. The Norwegian proved the speed of his Impreza WRC2006 in the most difficult stage conditions seen so far this year. But even Solberg's best efforts weren't enough to make up for the time lost through no fault of his own on Saturday and he ended the rally seventh overall. Chris Atkinson also had a mountain to climb after his own problems earlier in the rally. The Australian drove well throughout the day and moved up two places to finish eleventh.
SS14: 0855hrs Avlonas 1 (23.90km)
Avlonas, the first of the morning pair of stages, had already been used twice in the rally as Skourta (SS3 & SS6). Previously tackled in the opposite direction, the road surface had deteriorated significantly since then. Re-starting after his retirement on Leg two, Subaru's Petter Solberg blazed through the stage to set the fastest time -- his first of the rally. Daniel Sordo, who held fourth place overnight, reported a spark plug related engine problem which cost him 1min 07 sec to the leaders. He dropped two places to sixth overall. Skoda's Andreas Aigner went off the road 6.5km from the start and got stuck. Spectators helped his car back onto the road and he crossed the finish with some missing bodywork almost 4min behind Solberg. Atkinson, who started the stage two minutes after Aigner, had a puncture before being slowed as he caught and passed the Austrian. Manfred Stohl rolled his Peugeot 307 and retired. Jussi Valimaki reported a gearshift problem with his Mitsubishi, while Kosti Katajamaki limped over the finish line 16min slower than Solberg with a broken steering arm.
Fastest Time: Solberg (Subaru) 14:07.2
SS15: 0855hrs Agia Sotira 1 (24.77km)
After last night's extraordinary incident put him out of contention for the rally win, Solberg still had a point to prove on the stages. The Norwegian was fastest again on the second of the day, this time finishing nine seconds ahead of Gronholm who was second. The 24km Agia Sotira stage was another extremely rough and rocky part of the rally. Of particular note was an 11km section which had already been run twice on Leg two as part of Mandra (SS6 & SS11). After the stage, crews returned to Athens for a 30-minute service halt.
Fastest Time: Solberg (Subaru) 17:02.0
SS16: 1135hrs Avlonas 2 (23.90km)
Fresh from service, crews drove 44km to the start of the Avlonas test ready for the repeat of the morning loop of stages. Solberg was fastest once again, beating his earlier time by seven seconds even through the road had become even rougher. Duval was next quickest, with Toni Gardemeister third to keep a useful gap between his fourth position overall and a hard chasing Henning Solberg. Faced with big rocks pulled out into the racing line and huge pot-holes, many of the leading drivers opted for a more cautious approach than before, but there were still casualties. Xavier Pons suffered a puncture and rear bodywork damage, Valimaki broke a rear damper, Jan Kopecky damaged one of his Skoda's wheels, while local hero Aris Vovos reported an engine problem with his Subaru.
Fastest Time: Solberg (Subaru) 14:00.6
SS17: 1243hrs Agia Sotira 2 (24.77km)
Solberg made a clean sweep of the day's 'proper' stages by setting the fastest time through the 24km Agia Sotira test. He moved up into seventh overall, having started the day ninth. Sordo was second fastest through the stage and moved to within four seconds of Henning Solberg's fifth place overall. Chris Atkinson was 11th quickest. There were no changes to the overall top ten.
Fastest Time: Solberg (Subaru) 16:49.6
SS18: 1415hrs Oaka 2 (2.80km)
After a 20-minute service, crews returned to the Athens Olympic stadium for the second running of the asphalt Superspecial. In front of thousands of spectators, Gronholm was quickest, with Sordo second and Loeb third. Mikko Hirvonen discovered a gear selection problem on the way to the stage and had an anxious moment at the start when he went to select a gear. The Finn managed to select first and completed the stage using only that and second gear. There were no last stage upsets and the top drivers remained in the same positions overall. Marcus Gronholm claimed the event win, his third World Rally Championship victory of the year, with Sebastien Loeb second and Mikko Hirvonen third.
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 2:21.7
SUBARU WORLD RALLY TEAM SPORTING DIRECTOR, LUIS MOYA: "We came here to fight for the win and we cannot help feel that through circumstances we could not control that this has not been possible. Petter's stage wins today clearly demonstrated that the car and Pirelli tyres can fight at the top of the leaderboard so it is all the more disappointing to leave with this result. Chris has worked hard to overcome his early problem in the rally and has at times shown his promise. We know we still have much work to do in the next two months however are confident that we can be competitive in the second half of the year."
PETTER SOLBERG: "I'm really disappointed as I just did not deserve this luck this weekend. Despite the accident yesterday I've got to say that we have seen some very good improvements in the car and it looks positive. We need to take the positive points and put them into a package and I know we can get there. The team are going to be busy all through the summer but we know where we can improve and we are not going to give up. We'll be back."
CHRIS ATKINSON: "It's been an unbelievably tough weekend. Glenn and I didn't really make any mistakes and I'm happy with how I drove which makes it all the more frustrating that instead of a podium we are not in the top ten. I'm looking forward to having a clean run through a rally, however we need to work together and sort out the problems we encountered."
NEWS FROM PIRELLI
MARIO ISOLA, PIRELLI COMPETIZIONI RALLY MANAGER: "From one side, the performance shown during the weekend was quite good and everybody has seen the performance of the Subaru and our tyres. But, on the other side a good final result isn't there, and that's the disappointing part of the weekend. The result was lost in a stupid accident which was not Petter's fault. We now have two months to prepare for the future rallies. We will work hard in order to achieve better results in the second half of the season."