The 52nd running of the Acropolis Rally of Greece has continued to live up to the event's tough reputation with 33 drivers failing to complete of the opening leg, including Australian Chris Atkinson aboard his Subaru Impreza WRC2005. After ...
The 52nd running of the Acropolis Rally of Greece has continued to live up to the event's tough reputation with 33 drivers failing to complete of the opening leg, including Australian Chris Atkinson aboard his Subaru Impreza WRC2005.
After experiencing the adrenaline rush of being the first car to compete in the presence of 62,936 spectators at the Athens Olympic stadium Atkinson's consistent run was brought to a premature end today when he was forced out with an engine failure on the penultimate stage of the day.
As the rocky roads of the Acropolis began to take their toll throughout the opening group of stages Atkinson and his West Australian co-driver Glenn Macneall used a conservative approach with the aim of furthering their experience in the World Rally Championship.
Drivers who failed to complete the opening group of rough, twisty mountain stages close to the historic town of Delphi included the Ford entries of Roman Kresta, Anthony Warmbold and Austrian Manfred Stohl. Atkinson's Subaru team-mate Petter Solberg was lucky to continue after he slid off the road and into a ditch losing the boot-lid of his Impreza WRC2005 during opening stage of the day.
"I was happy after the opening few stages, we simply weren't pushing at all. The aim was to put in some consistent stage times early in the event and focus on getting the experience, build our momentum and make it to the finish without any incidents," said Atkinson.
A little over a kilometre from the end of the penultimate stage of the day Atkinson's Subaru lost power and he was forced to coast to the finish. As a consequence Atkinson was unable to contest the final 32.55km Elatia stage.
"I came out of a corner with about a kilometre to go when the engine made some horrible noises and lost power," said Atkinson.
After an inspection by the Subaru team it was discovered that the engine had suffered damage that was unable to be repaired during tonight's service and Atkinson was forced to retire from the event.
"To put it simply, there is a hole where there shouldn't be a hole," said Atkinson.
"It is obviously very disappointing for the rally finish the way in which it did; I wasn't pushing hard, but simply getting more experience under my belt and running at a consistent pace.
"Rallying is full of ups and downs, but is never easy. If it was always easy gaining a good result wouldn't be so rewarding. I will now turn my focus on getting a solid overall result in the Argentina next month."
The battle for the lead was fast and furious with four changes at the top of the time sheet during today's six stages.
Sebastien Loeb won the final stage of the day to take lead by 6.1 seconds heading into tomorrow's second leg ahead of Marcus Gronholm and Carlos Sainz.
Defending Acropolis Rally Champion Petter Solberg was running inside the top five until he dropped several minutes due to a broken rear drive shaft over the final two stages.
The 52nd Acropolis Rally of Greece continues tomorrow with leg two covering 122.72 competitive kilometres across eight stages.