Leader Petter Solberg (Subaru) extended his advantage until a brake problem meant he drove most of the longest test of the rally with only the handbrake working. He lost 25 seconds but ended with a 58.5sec lead. The fight for second was tight.
Leader Petter Solberg (Subaru) extended his advantage until a brake problem meant he drove most of the longest test of the rally with only the handbrake working. He lost 25 seconds but ended with a 58.5sec lead. The fight for second was tight. Harri Rovanperä (Peugeot) lost second on stage 11 after he suffered a large cut on the tread of a tyre. However, he regained it on the next stage and remained there, setting two fastest times.
Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) benefited from an improved road position to become the Finn's closest challenger. He is 8.8sec behind. Behind Duval is private entrant Daniel Carlsson and Gilles Panizzi (Mitsubishi), the Frenchman losing time with handbrake problems and a lack of power this morning. Mikko Hirvonen (Subaru) climbed to eighth before rolling and damaging his car's cooling system on the penultimate stage. He dropped to 16th. Carlos Sainz (Citroen) recovered to 31st after yesterday's problems and the Spaniard remains in the manufacturer points.
Marcus Grönholm (Peugeot), lying fourth, broke his car's left rear suspension after hitting a rock near the end of the opening stage. He tried to make repairs but retired shortly after the start of the next test.
The third and final leg of the Acropolis Rally starts tomorrow at 0630hrs, when cars will leave Lamia parc ferme. Crews will travel north west of the single service park in Lamia to contest six further rough gravel stages (a loop of three repeated), and a final 98.50 competitive kilometres. The winning car is expected to cross the finish ramp at 1453hrs.
Ahead of tomorrow's third and final Leg of the Acropolis rally of Greece, Subaru driver Petter Solberg holds the overall rally lead by a margin of 28.5 seconds. Over today's seven stages, Solberg drove his Impreza WRC2004 to three outright stage wins and at one point extended his lead to 1 minute 23 seconds. Despite losing some of this advantage with a brake problem and a 30 second time penalty for a minor technical infringement, Solberg remains ideally positioned ahead of the remaining 98 stage kilometres. 23-year-old Mikko Hirvonen's encouraging performance on the rally came to an unfortunate end on the penultimate stage, when his car collided with a large rock in the road.
Petter Solberg / Phil Mills: "Today I've been keeping one eye on the split times and trying to keep myself out of trouble. On the whole it's been a very good day but there's still a long way to go before we can think about a party. I was a bit nervous about the brake problem earlier, but I'm lucky there was a service straight after and apart from that things have been perfect. Tomorrow is bound to be a very tough day - I have butterflies in my stomach just thinking about it. I do like a good battle and still prefer to push flat-out all the time, rather than having to be clever about my speed, but it's a strategy I must learn."
Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen: Obviously I'm very disappointed to have finished like this, especially as I felt I was making good progress with my driving, but when I came around the corner there was just nothing I could do to miss the rock. Still, there have been plenty of good things to come out of this rally, and looking ahead to Turkey for sure I'll try to keep the speed, and use the performance of the car to achieve a better result there.
Peugeot driver Harri Rovanpera has finished leg two of the Acropolis Rally in second place, and is aiming for a strong finish to the Greek event tomorrow. Marcus Gronholm was unfortunately forced to retire on the second stage of the day, following some suspension damage against a rock.
Marcus Gronhölm / Timo Rautiainen: "It's a big disappointment for me, and unfortunately it was just my fault," said Marcus. "I slid a bit wide on a corner at the very end of the stage, and hit a rock with the left rear wheel. That damaged the lower suspension triangle, and I knew it would be difficult to carry on - especially as there were three stages left to run before service. Eventually the differential ran out of oil and we stopped."
Harri Rovanperä / Risto Pietiläinen: "Today has been very good," said Harri. "As always, conditions were quite tricky and hot but I tried to drive as naturally as possible and my times were competitive. The car has not given us the slightest problem all day, but the cut tyre that we had in the morning was a bit of a mystery - I don't think I hit anything. The biggest difficulty on the Acropolis is all the rocks: you have to be very careful to avoid them."
Sébastien Loeb, Daniel Elena and their Xsara WRC have moved up two places today, rising from fifth to third position. Out of the fight for the overall win due to yesterday's misadventure, Carlos Sainz and Marc Marti have fulfilled their double mission with exemplary conscientiousness : chasing more Manufacturers' points while testing tyres and other options to give the team more information and hence to help Sébastien.
Sébastien Loeb / Daniel Elena: "I pushed hard all day, and I will continue tomorrow," a determined Seb said during the evening's service time. "My Xsara is perfect, second place is within reach, and I will do everything I can to claim it^Å"
Carlos Sainz / Marc Marti: In sixteenth position according to today's starting order, Carlos Sainz was also able to take advantage of good road conditions, which allowed him to adopt a steady pace. With no illusions concerning his eventual classification, the Spaniard has placed himself entirely at the team's disposal. "It's quite normal. The needs of Citroën come first. I know the importance of the Manufacturers' Championship, and that every point counts in this very close competition! "
Ford BP Rallye Sport drivers François Duval and Stéphane Prévot finished today's second leg of the Acropolis Rally in fourth after a thrilling three-car battle for second place throughout the day. Their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car constantly traded seconds and places with Harri Rovanperä and Sebastien Loeb during a second demanding day of driving over rocky gravel tracks in the mountains of central Greece. Today marked the introduction of the experimental 'SupeRally' system, which allows retired cars to re-start subsequent legs. The system is expected to be introduced into the championship from 2005 with points awarded on each leg. However, it will be used until the end of the 2004 season with no points allocated to those cars that rejoin. Ford BP drivers Markko Märtin and Michael Park took advantage of its introduction to carry out some testing on their Castrol-backed Focus RS following yesterday's retirement. They tested shock absorbers and Michelin's new TDE hot weather, rough surface tyre, although Märtin admitted it was hard to motivate himself.
Markko Martin / Michael Park: "It's difficult to raise your game when there is nothing to fight for," he said. "To set fastest times you have to be in competition mode. It was also hard to try new parts because in an ideal test you drive the same road again and again to make comparisons, which obviously we can't do here on a rally."
Francios Duval / Stefan Prevot: "It was a good, but difficult, morning for us because some of the stages were new to me," said Duval. "It was important not to have major problems because there was no opportunity to repair them. We had no big trouble, although we hit a big stone near the end of stage 11. We also landed heavily after a jump two stages later and for the rest of the stage the steering didn't feel right." The team replaced the steering arms and realigned the geometry in service."
The Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports crew of Gilles Panizzi/Hervé Panizzi continue to fight for points in the Acropolis Rally and the Lancer WRC04 duo hold sixth position at the end of the second leg. Team-mates "Dani" Solà and Xavier Amigo rejoined the event this morning under the new 'SUPERally' regulations and, while not classified in the overall results, are gaining vital knowledge of the car and conditions.
Gilles Panizzi / Herve Panizzi: "I have to say I am very happy this evening", said Gilles at the final service in Lamia. "Look at the car in front of me; the triple World Championship-winning Peugeot 206. Our car was born six months ago and today we have set the same times as the 206. I am very very happy for this and I continue to do the maximum".
Dani Sola / Xavier Amigo: "Maybe eight or nine kilometers into the stage the gearbox broke and we only had first and second gears. With another 20 kilometers to the end, and the following two stages to run, we obviously struggled. I am beginning to feel like I have the car in my hands though and my confidence is growing", added the Spaniard. "I want more to understand what is going on and why and these regulations are giving us that opportunity, so I am happy".
Skoda Motorsport sent both Armin Schwarz and Toni Gardemeister back into action for the second day of the Acropolis Rally, using the new SupeRally system that allows retired crews to rejoin the competition.
Armin Schwarz / Manfred Hiemer: "Being able to carry out testing in a competition environment is a valuable exercise as it means we get immediate feedback and the chance to compare times with our rivals. I learned something new about the Fabia WRC today. In the past, every time I have driven the Drosohori stage I have had brake problems on the long descent to the finish at Gravia. This year I had no problem at all - the brakes on the Fabia give me a lot of confidence."
Toni Gardemeister / Paavo Lukander: "Both Armin and I have been hurt badly by our road position today. I am driving as hard as I was yesterday but the surface is so dirty and slippery that it is costing us around a second per kilometre. We had no serious problems on this morning's group of four stages where we had to drive 87kms with no service and reliability was really important."
Forecasters are predicting conditions around 28°C.