The Acropolis Rally (June 3-6) follows hot on the heels of another of the roughest gravel rallies in the FIA World Rally Championship and the challenge posed for the teams contesting the series will be as tough as ever. The event marks the debut...
The Acropolis Rally (June 3-6) follows hot on the heels of another of the roughest gravel rallies in the FIA World Rally Championship and the challenge posed for the teams contesting the series will be as tough as ever. The event marks the debut competitive outing of the Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports crew of "Dani" Sola/Xavier Amigo in the Lancer WRC04, the Spanish pair joining regulars Gilles Panizzi/Herve Panizzi in one of the oldest rallies in the championship and the only one to retain its historic name. Like the Cyprus Rally just two weeks ago, Greece's round of the FIA World Rally Championship is considered to be one of the toughest and most grueling in the series. The mountain roads are dry, dusty and littered with car-breaking boulders and while speeds are higher and therefore assist with engine cooling, the heat of the summer demands peak driver fitness as cockpit temperatures invariably rise to over 60 degrees Celsius.
"We knew that Cyprus, Greece and Turkey would be difficult rallies for us and although the Acropolis will be faster it will probably be harder on the car," commented Gilles. "Of course I would like to finish; in Cyprus we only retired because of the delay on the road section, not because the car had stopped. Finishing is my priority and then we will see what the performance is like because we still have a lot of work to do with the shock absorbers."
Team-mates Dani Sola and Xavier Amigo have waited over five months for their debut competitive outing in the Lancer WRC04, as the Spanish pair has also successfully been campaigning Mitsubishi's Group N machinery in the 2004 FIA Production Car World Rally Championship, in which they lead.
"I am very happy and looking forward to driving the car as I have waited five months for this opportunity," commented Dani. "My plan is to finish the rally to give the maximum information about the car to the team because they are working very hard on the development and we must all learn while trying to be fast and finishing. Doing the recce in Cyprus was very good for me; it is another of the roughest events in the championship and it is important to remember and have understanding of these types of roads just ahead of the Acropolis."
In a break with tradition, the 51st Acropolis Rally will not start in Athens but in the host town of Lamia, to the northwest of the capital city, and be immediately followed by a 2.25 kilometer super special stage on the evening of Thursday June 3. The crews, some of whom are also vying for Junior World Rally Championship honors, will then restart on Friday morning and contest seven mountain stages before returning to Lamia for another run around the crowd-pleasing super special stage. Leg one's 145.45 competitive kilometers make it the longest of the event, however Saturday's competition still includes 133.18 kilometers of car-breaking action over seven stages to the south and southeast of Lamia, while the final day covers another six stages and 98.50 competitive kilometers to the west. In total, the 2004 Acropolis Rally covers 22 stages and 377.13 competitive kilometers in a total distance of 1,438.48 kilometers.