Day 1: Loeb, Sordo and Citroen produce an Olympian effort The opening day of the 2008 Acropolis Rally, round seven of this year's World Rally Championship, saw excellent runs from of Citroen Total's Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and Dani...
Day 1: Loeb, Sordo and Citroen produce an Olympian effort
The opening day of the 2008 Acropolis Rally, round seven of this year's World Rally Championship, saw excellent runs from of Citroen Total's Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and Dani Sordo/Marc Marti who finished at the top of the provisional leaderboard with their respective C4 WRCs. The team's objective now is to defend the overnight positions of its two crews.
Prior to today's menu of 110.08km of stages, competitors took part in an official start ceremony yesterday evening at the foot of the Acropolis in Athens. This morning, however, they traded the asphalt of the Greek capital's jammed streets for the Acropolis Rally's infamous gravel stages and the prospect of sun, rocks and dust.
"There was no question of trying to play it tactically this morning," reported Sebastien at the lunchtime service halt. "We were second on the road, so we knew we faced a morning of 'road sweeping'. To limit the impact of that, the only solution was to push hard from the outset, and that's exactly what we tried to do. Our deficit after the first loop was just 4.2s, so it wasn't too bad. That put us in a good position for the afternoon's stages, although we didn't know how much the conditions had changed after the morning's pass..."
"We got off to a strong start," related Dani. "The work done during testing meant we started with a good set-up which worked very well. I felt confident with my C4 and we were able to keep up a good pace, although I was perhaps a little over-cautious on SS3. But there were rocks all over the place and I didn't want to push my car too hard. We ended the first loop in third position, 6.2s off the lead, and that was encouraging."
"The phenomenon we saw in Sardinia didn't materialise here," commented Seb after the Tatoi super- special. "This time, there was an acceptable amount of grip second time through once all the other competitors had been through; sufficient, in any case, to close the gap, move into the lead and then pull clear. But we couldn't afford to hang about! Daniel and I pushed extremely hard and we only lifted over the trickiest portions. On top of that, my Citroen C4 was in great form all day and it took all the different types of conditions in its stride, from the sand of Shimatari (SS1/4) and the gravel on Thiva (SS2/5) to the rocky Psatha (SS3/6). Psatha was actually a foretaste of what we can expect tomorrow. This rally is far from over and we could be in for a drama-packed weekend..."
Dani Sordo and Marc Marti also put in a strong afternoon and were pleased with their day at the end of play this evening: "I stayed focused on my objective," revealed Dani. "That enabled me to make the most of our car's strengths to keep a footing on the podium. We tried to reproduce the same pace as this morning and that seemed to function. We are now in a good position to target a top result for Citroen. We will need to profit from that and do all we can to steer clear of all the pitfalls associated with this event."
"The Acropolis Rally is probably the most punishing round of the year and we went into the first leg today very cautiously," said Olivier Quesnel. "At the same time, however, we knew we had some trump cards in our hand, not the least of which was the lessons taught by our performance in Sardinia which showed that the C4 has real potential. Our testing for the Acropolis proved very instructive, too, and both our crews were determined to get the weekend off to a flying start. Today's stage times and their overnight positions justify the positive feeling we had before coming to Greece. Sebastien and Daniel have a handy cushion going into the second day, while Dani and Marc were consistent and quick and were in the provisional top-three all day. Tomorrow, I expect them to produce the same sort of performance. I would also like to highlight the first class run of Urmo Aava and Kuldar Sikk who are fifth with their Citroen C4 WRC run by PH Sport with support from Citroen Technologies technicians. Today's terrain wasn't too rough, but the rest of the route promises to be tougher, and the weather even hotter, so we can't afford to take our eye off the ball. This rally is far from over..."