Ford driver Markko Martin maintained his grip on the Acropolis Rally, round six of the FIA World Rally Championship, at the end of today's eight stages to the south of the rally's base in Lamia. The Estonian's chief rival, Peugeot's Harri...
Ford driver Markko Martin maintained his grip on the Acropolis Rally, round six of the FIA World Rally Championship, at the end of today's eight stages to the south of the rally's base in Lamia. The Estonian's chief rival, Peugeot's Harri Rovanpera, dropped out of the reckoning, when his 206 was struck by gearbox problems on the second stage this morning. Martin's car ran without fault on the stages, although he and co-driver Michael Park turned mechanics between the second two tests this morning when an electrical connection in the gearbox broke. With help from the engineers over the radio the pair sorted the problem out and drove the next stage without any problems.
This morning Martin admitted he was still feeling the effects of driving 20km of yesterday's Elatia stage with the bonnet up, blocking the air intake. But by the afternoon, he was feeling fine and demonstrated this by setting fastest time on four of the day's stages.
Citroen driver Carlos Sainz is second overnight after a trouble-free day in his Xsara WRC, while Petter Solberg battled back after dropping one minute with a broken driveshaft on his Subaru Impreza WRC 2003 to end the leg in third spot.
Technical: Markko Martin's Ford Focus RS WRC 03 ran without mechanical fault throughout the day.
Sporting: Martin continues to lead the event, having started the day with a 4.8-second lead over Rovanpera. He dropped some of that on the first stage, but made it all back up on the next one when Rovanpera hit gearbox trouble. Martin was caught in Rovanpera's dust which cost some time, however. The only other minor drama for the leader was a gearbox problem which developed between stages ten and 11. Martin and his co-driver Michael Park were on the radio for advice while they reconnected a sensor. Martin ended the day with a 55.8sec lead. The other driver running in a semi-works capacity is Jari-Matti Latvala, Ford's 18-year-old RS WRC 02 driver. The Finn enjoyed his day to bring the car home in 12th position.
Markko Martin said: "We had to stop twice in the dust, which was bad from Harri's car this morning. Then this afternoon the gearbox problem could have been very bad for us. I noticed something on the data on the road section, but we were able to pull over and get the connector back together. It would have been very bad if we couldn't, it would have meant us using the manual shift."
Malcolm Wilson said: "I am pleased with what both Francois and Mikko did yesterday. Francois in particular did a very good job, and from the television you can see that the accident wasn't really his fault. He drove well through the proceeding stages and it just shows what he is capable of, he's led another rally. Imagine what his time would have been like without the spin in that first stage. Right now, though, all eyes are on Markko who is doing a fantastic job for us."
Technical: Colin McRae's Xsara WRC was hit by brake problems on the first and second loops of stages, but Carlos Sainz's car run reliably.
Sporting: Leg two was a good one for Citroen, with both of the remaining Xsaras closing in on the top three positions. Sainz hit second spot when two of the three cars ahead of him ran into trouble. McRae eased his way past Makinen on pace.
Colin McRae said: "The team didn't tell me new pads had been fitted to the car for the first stage, so when I started to use them, they weren't bedded in. We got to the end of the stage and they were on fire. We had no brakes for the next road section, but they can back a little for the next stage. On the middle loop there was a reoccurrence of brake trouble with the rears, we did not really have any. I'm going at about the same pace as yesterday. I'm not going to push any harder, once you do that there's a danger of starting to overdrive the car and losing time that way."
Carlos Sainz said: "I am happy with the car now. I'm not going to be making any more changes. Everything has gone well for us today, but there's still a long way to go. Everybody around is pushing hard, it wouldn't be the rally if people weren't pushing."
Technical: Petter Solberg's Impreza broke a driveshaft on the third stage this morning. Tommi Makinen suffered suspension trouble on the first loop of stages.
Sporting: Prior to his problem on the third stage of the day, Solberg had been fastest on two stages, still promising that he wasn't taking any risks, The differential trouble, cost him one minute and he dropped back from third to fifth through the Drosohori test. Makinen benefited from his team-mate's demise - and that of Rovanpera - to move into an early third place, despite his suspension trouble. The remainder of the day went well for both drivers.
Petter Solberg said: "I'm, not going to say that I'm out of this rally. Anything can happen here; I know this because it happened to me this morning. We haven't pushed too hard this afternoon, not taken too many risks, but we will be having a big push tomorrow. I can still win here."
Tommi Makinen said: "We had a puncture on stage 13, but the mousse worked okay. Apart from that, everything is okay. We have had quite a lot of oversteer in some of the stages today, when the suspension goes soft then the back end of the car is sliding out wide."
Technical: Harri Rovanpera suffered a gearbox problem on the second stage of the day. Richard Burns' car also had gearbox problems, the Englishman lost second gear ten kilometres after the start of SS13. Marcus Gronholm retired from third place when the fuel pump broke six kilometres from the final service park last night.
Sporting: Rovanpera had closed on the leader through the first stage of the day, but on the tenth test of event his 206 WRC would not engage second gear, which was shortly followed by third gear. He dropped down the order to eighth place, dropping one and a half minutes on that test and then another two minutes on the next one. By the end of the day, Rovanpera was seventh.
Burns' day had started well, with top three times on stages ten, 11 and 12. He'd climbed to sixth when his gearbox broke for the second leg in succession. Because the rules stipulate that manufacturers can only use two gearboxes, Burns had to go out into the day's final loop of three stages with the broken transmission.
Richard Burns said: "Running further back on the road helped us on the stages this morning, but then the gearbox breaking again is a big problem. It's hard to keep other drivers behind, when we have problems like this."
Harri Rovanpera said: "The gearbox problem was a disaster for me. On a rally like this, you use second and third gears all of the time, so not to have them is terrible. On SS11, I had to stop at a hairpin trying to find a gear to get going again. It is such a pity, things were going so well for us."
Technical: Didier Auriol's Octavia WRC was suffering from suspension trouble this morning, while Toni Gardemeister retired his car with no oil pressure yesterday.
Sporting: Auriol started the leg in ninth place and ended the day in the same spot. He wasn't happy with the car's handling, but accepted that on the rough Greek roads, finding the perfect set-up was always going to be hard. The Frenchman remains in a manufacturer's point-scoring position, which he hopes to maintain tomorrow. He ended his day on a high, setting second fastest time in the Lilea Superspecial.
Didier Auriol said: "Some of the stages have been very bad today. We seemed to knock the steering out somewhere, it didn't feel right at all. Okay, all we can do now is carry on and drive for the finish."
Technical: The Accents WRC3.5s of Armin Schwarz and Freddy Loix retired yesterday, while the WRC3 version of Jussi Valimake retired before the first test this morning..
Sporting: Valimaki's clutch was set to be changed at first service this morning. Unfortunately for the team, there was a problem with bleeding the transmission system, which was only fixed 45 seconds before Valimaki and the team went out of rally. The Finn couldn't make it to the control and their event was over.
Jussi Valimaki said: "It's quite disappointing. Yesterday when everything was okay, we were setting some very good times. I was happy with the car, but we had a clutch problem last night, which was going to be sorted out at service; but there was a problem with the system, which meant it couldn't be bled in time and that was the end.
David Whitehead: "This is another disappointing result for us. We came here feeling that we could come away with a result, but it hasn't happened. We're not going to let our heads go down, we look ahead to Cyprus. We are hoping to test before Cyprus, but again the problems we had here are not problems we've had anywhere before."
Renault driver Brice Tirabassi continues to lead the FIA Junior World Rally Championship. The Frenchman's Renault Clio has been at the top of the standings since the start of the event. The brake problems which hampered him through leg one, have not re-appeared on a trouble-free second leg for the driver. Daniel Carlsson remains in second spot, despite suffering a puncture on his Suzuki. Finland's Kosti Katajamaki retired from the event with a broken gearbox on his Volkswagen Polo. Third place was held by Urmo Aava in another Suzuki. The leading non-works driver remained Gilles Panizzi who suffered a broken shock absorber this morning, but otherwise enjoyed a clean run in his factory-specification, Bozian-run Peugeot 206 WRC.
TOP RETIREMENTS: Gronholm (FIN) yesterday's last TC. Valimaki (FIN).
TOMORROW: Sunday 8 June
Leg 3 starts from Lamia at 08h00 and covers 336.83km, including 105.04km on three stages. The first car is expected to arrive back in Lamia at 16h20.
WEATHER FORECAST: Remain hot and sunny.