Acropolis Rally - 1998 WRC Round 8

1998 WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND 8. (7th June to the 9th June.) After a quick trip back to Europe, the teams find themselves back in the action as they prepare for the Acropolis Rally, Round 8 of the World Rally Championship for 1998....

1998 WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND 8. (7th June to the 9th June.)

After a quick trip back to Europe, the teams find themselves back in the action as they prepare for the Acropolis Rally, Round 8 of the World Rally Championship for 1998. Reknowned as one of the toughest events in the world, the Acropolis Rally is also reknowned as a carbreaker, with large rocks ready to bring the unprepared unstuck.

The rally moves away from the format of last year, where the traditional start in Athens was followed by two nights based in the twon of Karmila Vourla. This year the event is to be based in the town of Delphi, in the FIA's preferred 'cloverleaf' format.

The event will cover aproximately 1025kms, with 325km's being the competitive distance. After the start below the Acropolis, where the event draws it's name, the crews head north west to tackle seven tough stages before an overnight halt at Delphi, where the rest of the event will be based. Five stages follow on Day2, with the final day's five stages making a total of 17 very tough and rocky stages. Five stages are run twice during the event.


The Leading Teams

Toyota Castrol Team


Carlos Sainz heads into the Acropolis Rally after moving into the championship lead once again, a position he had held for much of the season. In addition to this, Didier Auriol confirmed with his strong form in Argentina that his win in Spain marked the start of a concerted chamionship challenge.

After his performance in Argentina, Sainz is confident of the team's chances in Greece. "We didn't start so well in Argentina but, little by little we improved the handling of the car, and by the end I was very happy with it. I have a lot of confidence in the car for Greece, the roads are similar to Argentina in places, but a lot rougher. The main difficulty in Greece will be with tyre wear on the rocky roads - Michelin's ATS mousse system will be invaluable because we have to balance speed against the need to keep the car clear of damage" says Carlos.

Following his victory on the opening round in Monte Carlo, Sainz has been at the top of the Driver's series for much of the year. Now at the halfway point, he is again at the top. "What is important now is consistency. We had two bad results in Spain and Corsicaso it was vital for our chances that we scored well in Argentina. Now we are back in business and our aim is to continue that in Greece. I won my first WRC event here for Toyota back in 1990 so it would be nice to repeat that success now."

Team mate Auriol is equally focused on success, especially after his Argentine performance. Although he retired with engine failure, the Frenchman was in a top 3 position at the time. "I have mixed thoughts after Argentina - of course I was disappointed but I had such a good feeling with the car. I like the Acropolis and won here in 1992, so I'm quite hopeful for this year' said Didier.

As in Argentina the Corolla WRC's will run with a conventional floor mounted sequential shift gearchange system. "We feel the hydro-electronic 'joystick' doesn't give us that much advantage on gravel, but we know it does on asphalt" explains Auriol.

the team will also have no less than five other Corolla WRC's, Freddy Loix/ Sven Smeets in the Marlboro Toyota Castrol Team Belgium car, while Thomas Radstrom and Rui Madeira continue their pursuit of the FIA Teams Cup, and Isolde Holderied makes her second appearance this year, while local driver Angelos Zivas makes his debut in a Toyota-Hellas antered car. Abdullah Bakhashab will be chasing Team's Cup points in his Saudi Arabian enetered Celica GT-4.

Ford Motorsport

Ford narrowly missed out on second place on the recent Rally of Argentina, when Juha Kakkunen palced third, just seven tenths of a second behind old sparring partner Carlos Sainz. "Quite incredible!" said Kankkunen. "We gave everything we had through that final stage but sadly it wasn't quite enough. We were faster than Carlos on the stage when it was held for the first time this morning so we knew we could beat him over the same roads for the second time. We were a second quicker but Carlos just pipped us."

Rock strewn roads made the event very demanding but the reliabilty of Kankkunen's Escort delighted both the driver and Ford World Rally Team director Malcolm Wilson.

It's been a hard rally, both for me and the car. But such is the strength of the Escort that we were able to attack from the very beginning, knowing that it would be able to take the punishment from the rocks and boulders without breaking." added Kankkunen.

"Juha's car ran faultlessly throughout the rally," said Wilson. "We've not had to put a spanner on it and the only work our mechanics have carried out has been routine maintainance. That bodes well for the next round of the championship in Greece where some of the roads are even rougher than here in Argentina. We think we will be even stronger than we were here and we will be trying to repeat last year's one- two success.

"It is hard to believe that two of the world's best drivers have driven for more than 400km and finished less than a second apart. It's disappointing for us to lose out but it shows how right the FIA was to introduce special stage timing to include tenths of a second", added Wilson.

Mitsubishi Ralliart

Team Mitsubishi Ralliart is bidding to extend it's lead in the 1998 World Rally Championship for Manufacturers on the Acropolis Rally. A powerful team of Lancer Evolution and Charisma GT's make drivers Tommi Makinen, Richard Burns and Uwe Nittel amongst the favourites for the eighth round of the championship.

Douple World Champion Makinen and fellow Finn Risto Mannisenmaki are one of only two crews to have won two rounds of the World rally Championship this year and on past form, Makinen, who has now won ten major rallies in Lancer Evolutions, is overdue for his first win on the Acropolis after playing a leading role for the past two years. He is now fourth in the Championship, only four points behind the leader.

"The Acropolis is a very difficult rally and you need some luck to do well. the Lancer is a strong car though and I am sure we have a good chance of victory. Winning in Argentina makes me confident, because it showed the car is good on rough roads and we learnt some important things about it, so it should be possible to make it even better for Greece. It will not be easy of course: this is the hardest championship season I have ever seen," said Makinen.

Burns and co driver Robert Reid were most impressive in their first Acropolis appearance last year, demonstrating their ability to make the most of their Charisma GT and challenge far more experienced drivers. the fact that some of the stages are new should give the British crew an even better chance and Burns has earned a considerable reputation for consistency.

"We were competitive last year, we've got more experience now and the Charisma is even faster, so I don't see why we shouldn't be in the reckoning," Burns said.

German star Uwe Nittel and Swedish co driver Tina Thorner ahve shown a fine turn of speed in recent ralliesin their Charisma and have high hopes of doing well on what is traditionally one of the most open rallies in the championship.

"It is a hard event, but I think a good one if you have a strong car like the Mitsubishi. We know the opposition will be very tough, bu tI think we can do well." said Nittel.

"The car looks to be strong, which is vital. Car reliability and the driver's abililty to drive fast and keep the car in good shape will be paramount." commented Ralliart Tam Manager Phil Short. " Tommi is naturally confident after his victory in Argentina and Richard drove very well lst year, so we believe boith are potential winners."

Subaru World Rally Team.

Hopes are high for this years' Acropolis Rally and the 555 Subaru World Rally Team is justifiably confident of victory following the domination by Colin McRae and Nicky Grist over the rock strewn roads in Argentina. Fifteen fastest stage times in Argentina underscored the Scot's superiority in the Subaru Impreza World Rally Car, and with point scoring finishes in the South American event, the team now seeks maximum World Championship points that reflect the speed and control that Colin and team mate Piero Liatti can command.

McRae returns to Greece for the sixth time, buoyed by Argentina and despite mixed memories of the Acropolis Rally, confident that it is an event he runs well on. "We were the fastest in Argentina and although everyone is still close and things can change very quickly, I’m confident of a good result," he said.

"Many of this year’s stages are different and by all accounts the conditions are meant to be better, but in general terms the roads are a lot harder with a rockier base, whereas in Argentina they were softer and more sandy. One of our main advantages in Greece has been tyres. The Pirelli’s have definitely given us an edge in previous years, and if the conditions stay rough, this will help us again. The car essentially will be Argentinian specification, and hopefully this time we’ll pick up the maximum points fifteen fastest stage times justify!"

Team-mates Piero Liatti and Fabrizia Pons have only competed together in Greece once. A disappointing outing in Argentina did little to boost the Italian’s confidence on gravel and failed to show his natural ability, but an impressive fourth place in his only Greek outing in 1996 demonstrates that Piero has the ability to bag a top podium position this year.

"I like this rally, but it is tough because of the twisty roads, rocks and heat. It is very hard on tyres, possibly one of the hardest in the year, and the threat of punctures is constant and will probably go a long way to deciding the outcome of the event. For me the heat is tiring and I can lose up to three kilograms from sweating, so it is important to take lots of fluid and keep hydrated," said the Italian, who set some faster times than McRae in 1996.


1997 Acropolis Rally Overview

A sweeping one-two victory for the new M-Sport team, with Carlos Sainz reaping the first benefits of having four time World Champion Juha Kankkunen as his team mate.

Tam mates at Mitsubishi also swapped positions towards the end - Makinen moving ahead of Burns after an incident packed event for him and co driver Seppo Harjanne.

Gustavo Trelles led Group N from start to finish while Oriol Gomez took F2 honours for SEAT.

Leg 1: Freddy Loix became the first victim when he rolled 2 1/2 km's into the first stage, quickly followed shortly after by colin McRae, when he touched a bank and broke one end off his steering rack. Carlos Sainz went off after trying to avoid spectators near the road. Leader after leg 1, Kankkunen, 2nd Makinen, 3rd Burns, 4th Sainz, 5th Radstrom.

Leg 2: Sainz had a sensational day, setting six out of seven fastest or joint fastest times for the leg. Makinen hit a bank - on both sides of the car, and after losing time with broken driveshafts, front drive only and worn front tyres ended the day behind teammate Burns, who had experienced spins, a broken engine mount, which caused gear selection problems and a holed radiator, but still ended the day third. Leader after leg 2: Kankkunen, 2nd Sainz, 3rd Burns, 4th Makinen, 5th Radstrom.

Leg 3: Carlos Sainz was looking for his first win since the rally of indonesia more tahn 12 months prior - and the decision was taken to have Kankkunen drive for a finish, but it was imperative he stay competitive, because if Sainz faultered, he had to finish first. And more problems for Burns, but he had to take a penalty to allow Makinen to take third, and consolidate his lead in the championship. Radstrom took fifth in the aging Celica.

1  Sainz/ Moya                 E        Escort WRC                4h56m24sec
2  Kankkunen/ Repo        FIN        Escort WRC                4h56m41sec
3  Makinen/ Harjanne        FIN        Lancer E4                5h01m27sec
4  Burns/ Reid                GB        Charisma GT                5h01min31sec
5  Radstrom/ Giraudet        S/ F        Celica GT-4                5h04m11sec
6  Nittel/ Thorner        G        Lancer E3                5h06min26sec
7  De Mevius/ Fortin        F        Escort WRC                5h07min49sec
8  Kamioka/ Gormley        J/ GB        Impreza 555                5h11min15sec
9  Vovos/ Alvanos        GR        Impreza 555                5h12min05sec  
10 Kirkos/ Panou        GR        Escort WRC                5h14min33sec


Recent Winners

1997  Sainz/ Moya        Ford Escort WRC
1996  McRae/ Ringer        Subaru Impreza 555
1995  Vovos/ Stefanis        Lancia Delta HF Integrale
1994  Sainz/ Moya        Subaru Impreza 555
1993  Biasion/ Siviero        Ford Escort Cosworth
1992  Auriol/ Occelli        Lancia Delta HF Integrale
1991  Kankkunen/ Piironen        Lancia Delta HF Integrale
1990  Sainz/ Moya        Celica Turbo 4WD
1989  Biasion/ Siviero        Lancia Delta HF Integrale
1988  Biasion/ Siviero        Lancia Delta HF Integrale

Neil Blackbourn

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Tommi Makinen , Colin McRae , Carlos Sainz , Freddy Loix , Richard Burns , Didier Auriol , Risto Mannisenmaki , Gustavo Trelles , Robert Reid , Nicky Grist , Fabrizia Pons , Tina Thorner , Piero Liatti , Malcolm Wilson , Sven Smeets , Isolde Holderied , Rui Madeira , Uwe Nittel
Teams M-Sport