Sebastien Ogier has set the fastest time on the Qualifying Stage to earn the right to select his starting position first for the opening day of the Acropolis Rally.
Driving a Volkswagen Polo R, Ogier and co-driver Julien Ingrassia completed the 3.10-kilometre test near Loutraki in a time of 2min 14.5sec.
Weather conditions for the session were dry and sunny, with a temperature of 26 degrees Celsius and strong winds, gusting to 50kph, in the Service Park.
“Today was very important and I was very motivated to do this,” said Ogier. “Normally in qualifying I prefer to be safe, because it’s better to be second or third than make a mistake and finish at the bottom.
“But start position here is going to be very important and I wanted to be first to have first choice [of road position] so I really pushed.
“The stage was quite rough I hope the rest of the weekend is not going to be as bad as that. There’s quite a strong wind at the moment and everybody hopes that will stay so that there are no problems with the dust tonight.”
Citroen DS3 WRC driver Dani Sordo was second quickest, 1.1sec slower than Ogier. “The car was feeling fine, so I’m happy with this first test,” he said.
“I was surprised by Sebastien’s time because it was really, really fast. But okay, it’s a long rally, and if we are in the same position once the rally starts it will be fantastic.”
Qatar M-Sport driver Evgeny Novikov was third quickest, 1.2sec off Ogier’s time, with Thierry Neuville, also in a Fiesta RS, third, 0.4sec further back.
Ford Fiesta RS driver Mads Ostberg rounded off the top five times.
The WRC crews will select their starting positions at 1215hrs local time.
Ogier opts for back of the pack
Acropolis Rally qualifying stage winner Sebastien Ogier has decided to start as far down the order as possible in this evening’s opening leg.
The Frenchman opted to start last of the 11 top priority drivers to take advantage of what he hopes will be the best road conditions in the rock-strewn hills east of the rally base of Loutraki.
Ogier’s choice was predictable. The early starters will have the unenviable task of sweeping loose stones from the road surface to leave a cleaner and faster line for those behind.
Tonight’s second stage will be in darkness and Ogier’s only doubt would have been the possibility of dust hanging in the calm evening air, ensuring only the first starter would enjoy a clear run. However, gusts of up to 50kph in the service park suggest dust will not be a problem.
Ogier was fastest by 1.1sec in qualifying at the wheel of his Volkswagen Polo R from Dani Sordo’s Citroen DS3 and Evgeny Novikov’s Ford Fiesta RS. They followed Ogier’s strategy and opted to start tenth and ninth respectively.
All the remaining drivers opted for the lowest slot available, with the exception of Andreas Mikkelsen.
The Norwegian was sixth fastest in his Polo R, but opted to run third on the road. This allowed Volkswagen colleague Jari-Matti Latvala, who was only ninth fastest after making several mistakes, to start behind him.
The start order is:
1. Khalid Al Qassimi
2. Martin Prokop
3. Andreas Mikkelsen
4. Jari-Matti Latvala
5. Mikko Hirvonen
6. Nasser Al-Attiyah
7. Mads Ostberg
8. Thierry Neuville
9. Evgeny Novikov
10. Dani Sordo
11 Sebastien Ogier