Harri second; heartbreak for Marcus The Peugeot 206 WRC of Harri Rovanpera has finished leg one of the Acropolis Rally in second place, but Marcus Gronholm has dramatically retired from third place just six kilometres away from final ...
Harri second; heartbreak for Marcus
The Peugeot 206 WRC of Harri Rovanpera has finished leg one of the Acropolis Rally in second place, but Marcus Gronholm has dramatically retired from third place just six kilometres away from final service.
Gronholm's car succumbed to a fuel feed problem on the way back from the last stage of the day. Team principal Corrado Provera commented: "Marcus told us on the radio that there was no fuel pressure in the car, although there was fuel in the petrol tank. For the time being we know nothing more than that."
Conditions today were typical of Greece, with temperatures of over 30 degrees centigrade and sharp rocks littering the eight special stages. Harri was one of the stars of the day's action, setting three fastest stage times after an inspired drive. He had no mechanical problems, although he felt that he had not made an ideal tyre choice on the opening loop of stages. But Harri made rapid progress during the afternoon, carving through the field to give himself an excellent opportunity of taking the lead tomorrow.
"Today has been a very good day," he concluded. "Maybe I started off a little too carefully, but this rally is very long and tough. There is no point in taking too many risks too early. In the afternoon I made a much better tyre choice and the feeling was much better. I was held up a little bit on stage five by the dust from Toni Gardemeister, who had a turbo problem in front of me. But I was still able to set some good times, so no problem. I'm really looking forward to tomorrow now -- we have some good chances."
World Championship leader Richard Burns ended the day 10th, having endured a frustrating start to the Acropolis Rally. Running first on the road, he was forced to sweep loose gravel off the road for the following runners. This led to a chronic lack of grip and traction. His difficulties were compounded by a gearbox problem on the middle loop of stages, but the Englishman remains optimistic.
"It's not been the easiest start, but I knew that running first on the road would be a problem here," he commented. "Then on the middle loop of stages I lost third gear, which obviously cost me time. However, there's an extremely long way to go and we've seen already that anything can happen. I'll have a better road position tomorrow, and things are far from over."
The Bozian-run 2002-specification Peugeot 206 WRC of Gilles Panizzi finished the day seventh, after an excellent run which saw him consistently set top five stage times. Despite his relative lack of experience on gravel, the Frenchman is looking forward to continuing his attack tomorrow.
Marcus Gronholm was running third at the time of his retirement, just a few seconds behind Harri. Until his fuel-feed problem, Marcus had suffered from no problems apart from a spin on SS4.
After an early start at 0600 the drivers will go on to tackle eight more special stages on the longest day of the rally. The action is scheduled to conclude with another run through the spectator superspecial at Parnassos, before the first car returns to Parc Ferme at 1955.