Solberg takes gold in Greece With Olympics fever visibly gaining ground in Greece, Petter Solberg came out on top this weekend in the country's other major sporting event, the Acropolis Rally. The Subaru driver profited from the problems of...
Solberg takes gold in Greece
With Olympics fever visibly gaining ground in Greece, Petter Solberg came out on top this weekend in the country's other major sporting event, the Acropolis Rally. The Subaru driver profited from the problems of early leader Marcus Gronholm to take control and win ahead of championship pacesetter Sebastien Loeb by the margin of 18.4 seconds after 337 km of competition in the lofty Greek mountains. The Citroën- Michelin driver succeeded in squeezing past Peugeot-Michelin's Harri Rovanpera (3rd) on the final day. "Silver" for the Frenchman sees him extend his lead in the Drivers' championship standings, while Citroën-Michelin has moved ahead of Ford-Michelin in the Manufacturers' points table.
Subaru's Petter Solberg secured his second success of the 2004 World Rally Championship this weekend in Greece to conclude an event run for the most part in surprisingly cool and sometimes wet conditions. Indeed, the Acropolis Rally was supposed to have been the second encounter of this season's mini-marathon of three consecutive 'hot and rough' encounters (after Cyprus and before Turkey), but the weather gods clearly decided otherwise.
Solberg took command halfway through Day 1 after early pace-setter Marcus Gronholm (Peugeot-Michelin) was delayed when his engine stalled following a spin. His task was further facilitated when last year's Acropolis Rally winner Markko Martin (Ford-Michelin) crashed out on SS3 and by the fact that the championship leader Sebastien Loeb (2nd, Citroën-Michelin) was seriously hampered by his role as 'road sweeper' throughout the opening leg.
But that's rallying and, with a margin in his favour of close to a minute at the start of the second day, Solberg maturely held onto his advantage to the flag, despite a 30 second penalty applied by the sporting stewards for a missing mud-flap.
Attention focused meanwhile on the battle to see who would join the Norwegian on the podium. Four drivers were initially in the running: Harri Rovanpera (3rd, Peugeot-Michelin), his team-mate Marcus Gronholm, Francois Duval (4th, Ford-Michelin) and Sebastien Loeb, but that shortlist was quickly whittled down to three.
Gronholm disappeared with a broken suspension wishbone after clouting a rock on the second morning and, with Duval happy to collect valuable points for Ford following Martin's premature retirement, that essentially left Rovanpera and Loeb to shoot it out for silver and bronze, the Frenchman ultimately squeezing past on the final morning to pull further clear in the Drivers' title chase.
Sweden's Daniel Carlsson drove intelligently to finish as the best-placed privateer with his Michelin-equipped Peugeot 206 WRC, while Gilles Panizzi (10th) survived to put extra miles on the latest Mitsubishi-Michelin, and Carlos Sainz kept going to finish a lowly 19th after losing some 40 minutes on Day 1 with a broken shock absorber. His perseverance was rewarded with three extra Manufacturers' points for the reigning champions Citroën- Michelin who have regained the lead in this year's series.
Round 2 of the WRC's 'hot and rough' trilogy. is unseasonably cool and damp!
The new Michelin TDE. The Michelin TDE launched this weekend was developed for hot, aggressive stages, with two particularly hard- wearing loops in mind in the case of the 2004 Acropolis Rally: Saturday's two runs through 'Amfissa' and 'Drosohori' (SS10/11, SS14/15). However, given the atypical conditions which have been a hallmark of this year's visit to Greece (exceptionally cool temperatures, rain, damp ground, even mud), Michelin's driver partners did not find a clear-cut interest in choosing the TDE for either of these two groups.
Stages 10 and 11 were dampened by overnight rain making the proven Michelin Z the obvious choice. This rain then had a knock-on effect concerning conditions for the second run through these two stages which still weren't as aggressive as the new tyre had been designed for.
Even so, Harri Rovanpera (Peugeot-Michelin) recorded the first fastest time of the Michelin TDE's nascent career (SS14), while split times reveal that Marcus Gronholm (Peugeot-Michelin) and Sebastien Loeb (Citroën- Michelin) were fastest over the first part of SS7 (a stage which didn't initially figure as an objective for the TDE in Greece) until a sudden shower dramatically changed the conditions (mud).
Aime Chatard says. "The combat against wear has not been a decisive factor this weekend and, in the match between the Michelin Z and the Michelin TDE, the Michelin Z came out on top this time with a score of 12 fastest stage times to new tyre's one. Perhaps the conditions late in June in Turkey will enable the TDE to close the gap with the Z which is aimed at the looser - and damper - stages.
"Given the current tyre regulations, which Michelin contributed to putting into place, it is clearly more difficult today to introduce a new product since actual competition remains the only true litmus test, especially when enhanced durability is one of the key objectives and when teams can only nominate two types of pattern. Fine-tuning development to cover the full range of terrains on which a new tyre may be called upon to perform clearly demands time.
"Another challenge that is becoming increasingly apparent is the need to find a means of combating the inherent disadvantage faced by drivers who are first on the road on many gravel events."
[pic] 7½ times round the planet. June is an especially busy month of world class motor sport for Michelin whose tyres will be fighting at the sharp end not only in World Championship rallying but also in other disciplines as different as Formula One, MotoGP, Le Mans, Rally-Raids, Motocross, Enduro, Trials and Supermotard.
The tyre firm's programme for the month features no fewer than 21 key events and will mobilise a total staff of 197, plus a cool 24,180 tyres available for 216 cars or bikes. During this period of thirty days, Michelin's semi-trailers will cover a total of 307,974 km, that's more than 7½ times around the planet.
The busiest weekend of the calendar will be June 12th-13th which sees the organisation of the F1 Canadian Grand Prix, the Le Mans 24 Hours, the Nurburgring 24 Hours, Grand Prix Motorcycling in Catalonia and the Italian Motocross Grand Prix. This weekend alone will mobilise 10,800 tyres and a staff of 128!
Next round: Rally of Turkey (June 25th-27th 2004)