Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) won two stages but when a rear tyre punctured 1km after the start of the final stage, he dropped 1min 20sec dragging his car through the remaining 16km on its suspension. Hard luck story of the day concerned Petter Solberg...
Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) won two stages but when a rear tyre punctured 1km after the start of the final stage, he dropped 1min 20sec dragging his car through the remaining 16km on its suspension. Hard luck story of the day concerned Petter Solberg (Subaru). The Norwegian lost second this morning after spinning and then the gearchange paddle mounted on the steering wheel broke this afternoon. Finally on the liaison section to the final stage the Norwegian had to swerve to avoid an oncoming car on the same side of the road. He hit a rock and the impact broke his car's steering, leaving him stranded. Dani Sordo and Toni Gardemeister (both Citroen) and Manfred Stohl and Henning Solberg (both Peugeot) enjoyed a terrific four-way fight for fourth. The quartet were covered by a handful of seconds and swapped positions on every stage. Sordo eventually claimed fourth from Solberg, who incurred a 20 second penalty after a brake problem this morning. Less than 18 seconds cover the four drivers. Francois Duval (Skoda) and Kosti Katajamaki (Ford) both retired with a broken gearbox while Chris Atkinson (Subaru) stopped on the final stage with broken steering. Thirty-three of the day's 79 starters failed to complete the leg.
1. Kronos Total Citroen
By getting the better of Petter Solberg in the morning loop of stages, Sebastien Loeb, Daniel Elena, and their Citroen Xsara WRC had climbed to second place overall. A sustained attack during the afternoon loop of stages closed them to within 25 seconds of Marcus Gronholm by the end of SS12. Then came Psatha 2 - " special stage 13 " pointed out a superstitious Daniel Elena - and the start of an odyssey that will remain in the minds of the Kronos Total Citroen team for many years to come.
Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena: " From the start of that loop, and especially in Kineta, the cars and the tyres really went through hell " said Seb and Daniel. " A kilometre and a half after the start of Psatha, we picked up a left-rear puncture - which the mousse could not prevent. We took the decision to carry on, and it was the right one as we lost less time than we would have done had we stopped to change the wheel. On the other hand, it proved impossible to put on a new wheel after the stage as the suspension was too badly damaged. We continued on like that for a while before stopping to change the right-rear wheel, which had picked up a puncture as well. The problem was that the spare wheel was already on the limit of its mousse, so it just had to hold on for as long as it could. Finally we arrived at service on time, on only two front wheels and a hub. "
Xavier Pons/Carlos Del Barrio: " The second run through the stages was horrible. The surface was totally destroyed. I adapted my pace to this minefield, but I still wonder how we got through it without doing more damage. "
2. OMV-Peugeot Norway
The OMV Peugeot Norway World Rally Team was able to defend their top positions on the second day of the "bp ultimate Acropolis Rally of Greece". This in spite of several minor problems of Manfred Stohl and Ilka Minor (Aut) which culminated in a small fire in the Peugeot 307 WRC during the last leg. They nevertheless moved up to fifth overall place. Henning Solberg and Cato Menkerud also firmly put their foot down and finished the second leg in sixth place.
Manfred Stohl/Ilka Minor: . "I don't know how it started. For a moment I wondered whether I should stop but then I went on and we extinguished the fire after the finish of the stage. The smoke emission was quite heavy, though. But whatever happens, we will ride a full attack on Sunday in order to overtake Sordo"
Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud: "It was a lot of fun. We didn't take full risk on the long special stage. There are so many rocks on the road that a tyre damage is almost unavoidable. But we'll also ride a full attack on Sunday."
BP-Ford World Rally Team drivers Marcus Gronholm and Timo Rautiainen extended their lead of the Acropolis Rally of Greece today as the rocky gravel roads in the hills surrounding Athens wrecked the hopes of many competitors. Their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car returned to the Greek capital this evening after a gruelling second leg with a 1min 47.2sec advantage, with team-mates Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen lying third in a similar car.
Marcus Gronholm/Timo Rautiainen: "Things look good tonight and I hope tomorrow will go as well as the last two days. This is the toughest Acropolis for six years and I cannot feel comfortable yet. In these conditions, whatever the size of the lead, it is not enough. Rocks have been banging the underneath of the car everywhere and I've been pushing hard but the Focus has stood up to everything that has been thrown at it. It's incredible. I carried two spare wheels this afternoon, which was a good decision as I had two punctures."
Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen: "My aim is to hold position and gain points for BP-Ford," he said. "I have no need to push hard because our position is safe as long as we have no troubles. I'm in no rush and I just want to take it steady and bring the car home safely. It's unbelievable the punishment this car can take because it was so rough this afternoon. I have never seen rocks like it on a special stage.
4. Stobart VK M-Sport Ford
Information unavailable at time of going to press.
5. 555 Subaru
Today's second Leg of the Acropolis Rally of Greece started well for the Subaru World Rally Team. Petter Solberg set a string of top three times as he fought with Sebastien Loeb for second place, while Chris Atkinson was among the four fastest drivers on each of the morning's stages. But both drivers hit trouble in the afternoon. Atkinson retired on the last stage after damaging a steering arm, while Solberg was forced into a rock wall as he avoided an oncoming car on the road section to the same stage. Both cars are expected to re-start for tomorrow's final Leg.
Petter Solberg/Phil Mills: "It's just incredible what happened. I came around a tight right hander and was forced to swerve to avoid an accident with a car coming the other way, hitting the rock face and breaking the steering arm. What with Sebastien's problems it's just so frustrating, but that is mine and Phil's luck all year. We'll have to see what happens from here as the plan is to get the car back and re-start tomorrow."
Chris Atkinson/Glen MacNeall: "We had a good start to the morning and set some good stage times. Then this afternoon the steering arm was damaged in the long rough stage. But we lost time with that then made some repairs and hoped to get through to the end of the final stage. It later failed and unfortunately we dropped five minutes and are now entering super rally."
6. Red Bull-Skoda Team
A very eventful second day of the 53rd Rally Acropolis in Greece for Red Bull Skoda. Harri Rovanpera/Risto Pietilainen were struggling with a faulty on-board intercom system in the morning, in the afternoon big rocks on the road led to a broken rim, a smashed shock absorber and a cut tyre. Andreas Aigner was hit even worse. The Austrian had four tyre failures on the penultimate stage of the day, and not only had to complete an entire stage driving on the rim, but also the remaining road section of more than 50 kilometres back to Athens. This meant positions 12 and 15 for the two Red Bull driver at the end of the second leg.
Harri Rovanpera/Risto Pietilainen: "I was feeling more comfortable in the car today compared to yesterday. Unfortunately a connector had unplugged itself from the helmet in the morning, so communication between Risto and myself was limited and then failed altogether in one stage. We lost a vital amount of time that way. At the midday service we replaced the rear axle, which turned out to be a good decision. Sadly our increase in speed was impaired by tyre failures. Now I hope to get to the finish tomorrow without any further problems, maybe we can gather a few points for the manufacturers' championship."
Andreas Aigner/Klaus Wicha: "I don't feel physically fit yet which is fatal on these long stages in scorching conditions. The car was very good to drive today, I felt quite comfortable. On the long 37 kilometres stage I picked up three tyre failures caused by big rocks, and on the final SS a fourth tyre went 6 k before the end of the stage. From this moment on I had to drive to the finish on the left rear rim. Summing up, I lost four minutes that way. This sadly means P15 instead of P11 overall, but I'm satisfied with my performance as a driver in Greece so far."