Off To A Good Start
The Acropolis Rally got underway on Thursday evening with a single 25km-long stage. Sébastien Loeb and Mikko Hirvonen got into their stride quickly, setting the second and third fastest times in the opening stage ahead of Friday’s long leg, which will take the competitors to Itea.
After the ceremonial start organised in Athens’ Zappeion Gardens, the Acropolis Rally competitors headed back towards Loutraki to contest the first stage. At 25.24km long, the Kineta stage served up a significant first test for the leading contenders.
In second place, 2.8s adrift of Jari-Matti Latvala, Sébastien Loeb seemed fairly pleased with his performance: “Everything went well, the road was completely dry and we made the best choice in going for the Michelin Latitude Cross hard tyres. I’d rather be two or three seconds ahead than behind, but there’s nothing in it. We just had to get to the end of the stage without making any mistakes.”
In third place, 7.1s behind his team-mate, Mikko Hirvonen assessed the cost of having to sweep the loose gravel: “Although I was tenth out on the road, I could see that the racing line still wasn't completely swept. I think there were only one or two cars ahead of me that drove on the line that I would like to take. As a result, I lost a bit of time to the top two.”
Thierry Neuville, who set off just before Mikko, could only manage the ninth fastest time: “I can't say I’m pleased with the result, it didn’t go well. We are going to see how we can change the set-up during the service period as to as adapt it to the conditions I am encountering.”
Fourth on the road, Nasser Al-Attiyah’s progress was undoubtedly hampered by having to sweep the road: “It was very slippery and I struggled to get to grips with the conditions. I had to avoid making a mistake. Tomorrow’s leg will be a lot more difficult.”
With 170km of timed stages, Friday certainly promises a long and intense day of rallying. After leaving Loutraki at 6am, the competitors will head for Itea, where they will stop off for two remote service periods. The cars will return to the service park after a leg lasting over 15 hours!