Today'ssecond Leg of the Acropolis Rally of Greece started well for the Subaru World Rally Team. Petter Solberg set a string of top three times as he fought with Sebastien Loeb for second place, while Chris Atkinson was among the four fastest ...
Today'ssecond Leg of the Acropolis Rally of Greece started well for the Subaru World Rally Team. Petter Solberg set a string of top three times as he fought with Sebastien Loeb for second place, while Chris Atkinson was among the four fastest drivers on each of the morning's stages. But both drivers hit trouble in the afternoon. Atkinson retired on the last stage after damaging a steering arm, while Solberg was forced into a rock wall as he avoided an oncoming car on the road section to the same stage. Both cars areexpected to re-start for tomorrow's final Leg.
SS8: 0857hrs Mandra 1 (12.60km)
The second Leg of the Acropolis rally got underway with the narrow and rocky Mandra stage located in the countryside 34km west of the Athens service area. In bright sunshine and a temperature of 26 C Marcus Gronholm was quickest to claim his sixth consecutive stage win. Sebastien Loeb was second with the Subaru duo ofSolberg and Atkinson third and fourth. Further down the order, a fifth-fastest time from Henning Solberg moved him ahead of team-mate Manfred Stohl into sixth overall. Mitsubishi driver Jussi Valimaki went off the road at the first corner and damaged the right rear corner of his Lancer. The Finn continued but dropped from 10th to 12th overall.
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 08:50.7
SS9: 0950hrs Kineta 1 (37.33km)
The middle stage of themorning loop was the longest of the rally and proved problematic for many drivers in the top-10. Matthew Wilson lost time when he spun on a hairpin and ended up facing the wrong way, while Henning Solberg arrived at the stage end with no brakes. After his accident on SS8, Valimaki said that a flattened exhaust pipe had limited the power of his Lancer’s engine. Francois Duval went off the road 10km from the start and said his Skoda hadn’t felt right since. Loeb ended Gronholm’s run of stage wins by setting afastest time nine seconds quicker than the Finn. Petter Solberg lost four seconds when he stalled his Impreza WRC at a hairpin and Loeb moved ahead of him into second. Chris Atkinson continued his charge up the leaderboard, moving up three places into fourteenth.
Fastest Time: Loeb (Citroen) 25:39.1
SS10: 1113hrs Psatha 1 (17.41km)
The rough and rocky 17km section at Psatha was the final stage before the mid-leg service. As the roadtemperature increased to more than 40 C, tyres that had already completed two stages were pushed to their absolute limit over the mostly uphill route. Gronholm went quickest, with Loeb second and Subaru's hard charging Aussie Chris Atkinson third -- despite driving with a damaged steering arm. Petter Solberg lost time when he went off the road 1.5km before the finish but he got back on without damaging his car. On the road section after SS9, Henning Solberg had disconnected his Peugeot's damaged rear brakes but wastwo minutes late at the start and collected a 20 second penalty. With front brakes only, he charged through the stage in the fourth fastest time. Kosti Katajamaki went off the road and damaged the back of his Ford Focus.
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 11:21.3
SS11: 1408hrs Mandra 2 (12.60km)
Fresh from a 30-minute service halt at the Olympic stadium, crews set off for a repeat run through the morning’s stages. After the passage of79 cars, the already rough surface had deteriorated further, and the 12km section at Mandra was littered with sharp rocks and boulders. The familiar trio of Gronholm, Loeb and Solberg were first, second and third, with Citroen’s Daniel Sordo fourth – the Spaniard now up to sixth overall from ninth at the start of the Leg. Francois Duval encountered a gear selection problem and lost time as he switched to the manual back-up. He completed the test 57sec slower than Gronholm. Chris Atkinson lost time when hemissed a junction and had to reverse back to re-join the route.
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 08:43.1
SS12: 150hrs Kineta 2 (37.33km)
The repeated 37km Kineta stage proved to be the toughest of the event so far, with several drivers claiming they had never driven a stage so rocky and rough. Duval’s Skoda was one of the first cars to hit trouble when a broken gearbox brought his day to a premature end. Jan Kopecky, also in a Skoda, was nextto retire, his Fabia suffering a broken rear wheel. Both Subaru World Rally Team drivers had their share of problems too. Atkinson pulled over in the stage to check a damaged right-hand steering arm. He was quickly underway again but dropped 1min 34sec to the leaders. Solberg meanwhile had to contend with two punctures and broke the gear selector paddle as the car bounced heavily over the rough stage. Keeping his cool, the Norwegian was still able to set the third fastest time.
Fastest Time:Loeb (Citroen) 25:20.2
SS13: 1624hrs Psatha 2 (17.41km)
In extraordinary circumstances Petter Solberg was forced to retire
from the day on the road section leading to SS13. Solberg had swerved
to avoid an accident with a car coming towards him on his side of the
road forcing his car into a rock wall, breaking steering components
and making it impossible for him to continue. On the stage there was
more disappointment for Subaru when Atkinson retired asa result of
further damage to his car’s steering arm. Loeb hit trouble too when his
Citroen’s left- rear tyre exploded 1km after the start. The Frenchman
pushed on but dropped 1min 22sec to Gronholm as the tyre and wheel
disintegrated along the route. Kosti Katajamaki also joined the list of
retirements when his Ford Focus came to a halt with a broken gearbox.
Andreas Aigner crossed the line with only three wheels on his Skoda
while Gardemeister, Sordo and Stohl each collected three punctures.
Stohl alsoreported a small gearbox fire in his Peugeot.
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 11:23.6
SUBARU WORLD RALLY TEAM SPORTING DIRECTOR, LUIS MOYA:"To see our battle at the top of the leaderboard end in such a way is unbelievable. The work that all the team has put into the car, the tyres and the performancedid not deserve to see Petter's challenge end in such a freak way avoiding a road accident and hitting a rock face. Chris too put in a strong performance earlier today, however Greece is a very tough rally and he has found it unforgiving."
PETTER SOLBERG:"It's just incredible what happened. I came around a tight right hander and was forced to swerve to avoid an accident with a car comingthe other way, hitting the rock face and breaking the steering arm. What with Sebastien's problems it's just so frustrating, but that is mine and Phil's luck all year. We'll have to see what happens from here as the plan is to get the car back and re-start tomorrow."
CHRIS ATKINSON:"We had a good start to the morning and set some good stage times. Then this afternoon the steering arm wasdamaged in the long rough stage. But we lost time with that then made some repairs and hoped to get through to the end of the final stage. It later failed and unfortunately we dropped five minutes and are now entering super rally."
NEWS FROM PIRELLI
Mario Isola, Pirelli Competizioni Rally Manager:"In the morning we saw once again that the performance of the Subaru and Pirellipackage was there. We believed it was possible for Solberg to keep fighting with Loeb for second place but at the end of the day he seems to have been extremely unlucky -- there's really no other word for it. We hope he and Chris are able to continue in the rally tomorrow."