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,...
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 St 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.
SS1 1800 Athens Olympic Stadium SSS (2.40km)
The 2005 Acropolis Rally of Greece got underway on Thursday evening with a spectacular Superspecial stage built inside the Athens Olympic stadium. In front of more than 62,000 spectators, cars raced in pairs around the twisty 2.4km tarmac circuit that featured hairpin corners and a tabletop jump. After a thrilling battle with Subaru's Petter Solberg, Citroen's Sebastien Loeb posted the fastest time of the night, with British driver Mark Higgins close behind in second and Peugeot's Markko Martin third. A tyre-smoking performance from Petter Solberg netted him the fifth fastest time, while his team-mates Chris Atkinson and Stephane Sarrazin were 19th and 20th respectively. After the stage, crews returned their cars to the Service Area in Lamia for an overnight halt.
Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 2:15.4
SS2 0938 Eleftherohori 1 (18.44km)
In hot and sunny conditions, crews re-started Leg one on Friday morning and made their way to the first proper test of the rally at Eleftherohori. As first car through the day's six stages, and faced with the worst of the loose gravel road surface, reigning world champion Sebastien Loeb found the going tough and set the fifth-fastest time. Marcus Gronholm was quickest, to take the overall lead of the rally, with Ford's Toni Gardemeister second on the stage and Mikko Hirvonen third in a privately entered Focus WRC. Meanwhile, the rocky roads of the Acropolis began to take their toll: Ford's second points nominated driver Roman Kresta retired from the Leg with a broken steering arm, while fellow Ford driver Anthony Warmbold also made an early exit when his car lost a front wheel. Citroen privateer Manfred Stohl retired after going off the road. Janne Tuohino damaged the clutch of his Skoda Fabia WRC after hitting a rock 5kms from the start line and Petter Solberg lost the boot-lid of his Impreza WRC2005 when his car slid off the road into a ditch.
Fastest Stage Time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 11:07.7
SS3 1023 Rengini 1 (11.84km)
Running 23rd on the road through the stages of Leg one, Ford privateer Mikko Hirvonen was fastest on SS3, underlining the benefit of a driving line swept free of loose gravel by the cars ahead. Greek driver Armodios Vovos was another man making a good impression on the leaderboard and, to the delight of his home crowd, he was the fifth fastest. Continuing without a boot lid, Petter Solberg posted the second-fastest time despite battling clouds of dust inside the car and less than ideal handling caused by the lack of a rear spoiler. SS3 proved a bad one for Skoda, when both Armin Schwarz and Janne Tuohino retired from the Leg. Schwarz dropped out with an engine problem on the road section from SS2, before Tuohino's clutch broke on the start line.
Fastest Stage Time: Hirvonen (Ford) 8:33.2
SS4 1056 Elatia-Zeli 1 (32.55km)
One of the most unusual stages of the rally, SS4 starts with a 10km flat-out section of straight and smooth road which according to Phil Mills, has more in common with a motorway than the rest of the rally route. Sebastien Loeb was quickest over the stage to take his second win of the rally, with his Citroen team-mate Carlos Sainz second and Mikko Hirvonen third - enough to move him into the overall lead of the rally. Marcus Gronholm was slowed by a gear-selection problem, which meant he had to use his Peugeot's back-up manual system. With the shared objectives of learning more about their cars and the rally conditions on their Acropolis debuts, St cautious approach to the first few stages of the rally. After the morning group of three stages, crews returned to the service area in Lamia after SS4 for a 30-minute service halt.
Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 21:50.9
SS5 1340 Eleftherohori 2 (18.44km)
The morning's loop of three stages was repeated in the afternoon and most crews reported that the road surface on the second pass through Eleftherohori was much rougher than before. His car's gear-selection problem fixed in service, Marcus Gronholm attacked hard on SS5 to take the stage win and snatch the overall lead of the rally from Mikko Hirvonen who encountered transmission problems of his own and lost first, second and third gear in his Ford. The problem cost him around 17 seconds and dropped him to fifth overall. Petter Solberg had hoped to recover some of the time he lost earlier in the day, but a broken left-rear driveshaft limited his progress and relegated him to seventh place overall, with more time loss likely over the following two stages. St
Fastest Stage Time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 10:59.0
SS6 1425 Rengini 2 (11.84km)
Carlos Sainz set the pace on the repeated Rengini test, with his team-mate Sebastien Loeb just behind in second. Marcus Gronholm was next fastest to hold the overall lead, but it remained very close at the top with ten seconds separating the top four positions. Petter's broken driveshaft continued to limit his speed, and cost him around 50 seconds over the 11km stage. But there was worse to come for the Subaru World Rally Team when St some rear suspension damage which cost him more than two minutes. To prevent more damage on the final stage of the day, St after SS6 in order that proper repairs could be made overnight and he could start Leg two under Superally regulations. After adopting a careful approach to his first day of the Acropolis, Chris Atkinson's Leg also ended prematurely when an engine problem forced him to stop at the end of the stage. A decision on whether Chris will re-start the second Leg will be taken after an overnight inspection of the engine.
Fastest Stage Time: Sainz (Citroen) 8:21.5
SS7 1458 Elatia-Zeli 2 (32.55km)
Leg one finished with a repeat of the marathon 32km stage from Elatia. Although Petter Solberg continued to lose time with his broken driveshaft, there were no other incidents for the leading competitors. A third stage win for championship defender Sebastien Loeb saw him move ahead of Gronholm and into the overnight lead of the rally by a margin of 6.1 seconds.
Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 21:10.6
Subaru World Rally Team Principal, David Lapworth
Petter has had a dramatic day and he's driven the complete rally suffering consequences of a couple of incidents. The time lost means it's been difficult to achieve the results we were looking for, but there's still a good chance of scoring a few points. I'm sure he'll give it his best shot tomorrow. It seems that St more than their fair share of trouble today. Chris started cautiously as planned, has set some encouraging times and has gained some of the valuable experience that he came here for. St but was very unfortunate with his punctures. With both incidents on the same stage it seemed only sensible to retire and ensure minimum damage to the cars.
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.
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.
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.
News From Pirelli
Fiore Brivio, Pirelli Tyres Rally Manager: "By virtue of his road position earlier, Petter gambled on a KP tyre in the morning but unfortunately conditions were too warm to make the most of them and the resulting choice was too soft. In the afternoon his tyre choice was perfect but unfortunately he had other problems. His position tonight is not a true reflection of the whole package."