Acropolis Rally: Round eight preview

The Acropolis Rally is based at Lamia, approximately 200kms north east of Athens. After dropping the traditional ceremonial start in Athens last year, the rally will return to the capital this year for a start ceremony and superspecial inside the...

The Acropolis Rally is based at Lamia, approximately 200kms north east of Athens. After dropping the traditional ceremonial start in Athens last year, the rally will return to the capital this year for a start ceremony and superspecial inside the spectacular stadium built for the 2004 Olympic Games.

After Thursday night's start the cars will be brought back to Lamia from where the remainder of the event will be based. On Friday crews face two loops of three stages (including two attempts at the 32.55kms of Elatia-Zeli). Saturday sees two groups of four stages on the schedule while Sunday's final leg features four tests including Pyrgos which, at 34.80kms, is the longest of the event. The rally finishes at Thermopyles, approximately 15kms from Lamia, at 1445 local time (1345 CET).


The big questions in Greece this weekend (24-26 June 2005) will be can Sebastien Loeb make it five World Rally Championship wins in a row, further extending his lead in the World Rally Drivers' Championship, and can Carlos Sainz add enough points to Citroen's tally to put the car maker back in the lead for the manufacturers' title chase.Consecutive successes with the Citroen Xsara in New Zealand, Sardinia, Cyprus and Turkey have taken Sebastien Loeb 13 points clear at the top of the provisional Drivers' championship standings, while Citroen has moved to within just 4 points of top spot in the Manufacturers' table.

Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena: "I am effectively beginning to have good experience of Greece. But this year's route features some 80 km of new stages and the weather is another unknown factor. Statistically, rain is rare in Greece in June, but two of my tyre choices last year proved unsuitable. One because it rained and the other because the rain I was expecting didn't happen. As for the lessons we have learnt from the last two events, the fight at the sharp end in Cyprus was prematurely truncated and the rain took everyone by surprise in Turkey. So, yes, we have the necessary cards in hand to win, but since we don't know what cards our rivals hold we will be as cautious as we usually are."

Carlos Sainz/Marc Marti: "I think our strategy will be the same as in Turkey. I absolutely need to finish, and in the big points. Naturally, if I see an opportunity to finish better than 4th then I will perhaps change tactics. Above all, I hope we don't hit any problems so that I can help Citroen as much as I can one last time."


The Subaru World Rally Team will be entering a three-car team in the Acropolis Rally. The three Subaru Impreza WRC2005's will be driven by Petter Solberg (co-driven by Phil Mills) Chris Atkinson (co-driven by Glenn MacNeall) and Stephane Sarrazin (co-driven by Denis Giraudet). After winning the event last year in a Subaru Impreza WRC2004, Petter Solberg has the best possible form ahead of this year's Acropolis.

Petter Solberg/Phil Mills: "I'm heading to Greece with the objective to win. I'm ready for a big attack, I expect to take a few risks, but I'm planning to do all I can to take ten points. I think the whole team and me are so determined to win now that we have the same goals - win the next rally, get back on track and get the winning spirit. I'm not going there for second place. I like the Acropolis rally a lot. It's rough and rocky, but that's normally good for Subaru and Pirelli, I think they have a good formula in the conditions and I hope the combination will be successful. The stage in the stadium sounds like fun. I'm pleased that so may people who love rallying will get the chance to see the cars. Sometimes it's difficult for them to get out on the stages. Driving on gravel tyres won't be any problem - it'll make a hell of a show."

Chris Atkinson/Glen MacNeall: "Once again it's a new rally for me and I'm looking forward to starting it. I'm expecting the Greek stages to present a different sort of challenge to the Turkish ones, but Subaru has a good history there. I've only been to the Rally of Greece once before, and then only as a spectator, but from what I saw, the mixture of conditions will make the stages good fun to drive. My main objective for the rally is to run at a solid pace all weekend, not push too hard, and get a solid overall result. I've been taking full advantage of the Superally regulations so far this year, but I'm hoping I won't need to in Greece."

Stephane Sarrazin/Denis Giraudet: "I'm feeling fine and really looking forward to the second gravel rally in my career. I think for next week I will have a good car and I'm ready to give my best effort. After my last rally in Sardinia I was very happy with the feeling, and next week I'll be trying to improve myself and push a bit more. Since Sardinia my pace-note system with Denis has developed a lot, and we have had opportunities to practise it on the recces in Cyprus and Turkey. My main objective is to improve my car control, it has more performance available than I am using just yet, so I hope that we'll learn more get more speed and continue like that."


With the championship reaching the halfway point and Ford lying third in the manufacturers' standings, BP-Ford team director Malcolm Wilson has given both drivers the go-ahead to drive flat out. "Toni has the opportunity to drive at 100 percent from the very first kilometre and I expect him to show the pace that brought him podium finishes on the first two rounds. For the past few rallies Roman has been under orders to drive cautiously and ensure that he brought the car to the finish. He has done a great job by avoiding trouble and scoring points on the last three events. Now I've told him that he can drive at maximum from the start here and show me his pace," said Wilson.

Toni Gardemeister/Jakke Honkanen: This rally is the best of the rough rallies we do," said the 30-year-old Finn. "It's normally the quickest and the roads are much better now than they were five years ago. They're wider and probably not as rough as they used to be, but still a tough challenge. I enjoy driving there and think it would be realistic to aim for a podium finish. I have a good strong car and I'd like to have a clean run and get a good position for the team."

Roman Kresta/Jan Mozny: "I'm really looking forward to Greece because it's a nice rally in which to drive," said the Czech. "But it's also a difficult one. It's rough but can also be quite fast and that combination is hard for the cars. The roads are quite wide and for the second pass through the stages they will be quite clean. I would compare some sections to the roads we encountered in Sardinia."


After Sardinia, Cyprus and Turkey, the long tour of Mediterranean gravel rallies that kicked off at the beginning of April will end over the sun-baked tracks of central Greece. Peugeot goes to the eighth round of the season with every intention of defending its lead in the Manufacturers' championship.

Marcus Gronholm/Timo Rautiainen: "This hasn't been my most successful rally. There's no particular explanation for that. It's basically down to luck. It's an event I like, and I think it has improved with the years. I would naturally love to win the Acropolis Rally, twenty or so years after Juha Kankkunen picked up Peugeot's last success there. The competition is likely to be very fierce. My aim is above all to score points for the team."

Markko Martin/Michael Park: "The stages are hard-wearing and it can get very hot. You have to cover many stages on the different loops with no opportunity to change tyres, so good tyre management is crucial. So far, I've never done things by halves in Greece. It's either been very good or very bad. This year, I will mainly be looking to pick up points for the team."


The Skoda Motorsport World Rally Team will enter three cars for the eighth round of the World Rally Championship, the Acropolis Rally (June 23-26) where Jani Paasonen/Jani Vainikka will drive the Fabia WRC 05 alongside nominated crews Armin Schwarz/Klaus Wicha and Janne Tuohino/Mikko Markkula. Jani joins the team for the second three-car entry of the year at the beginning of a busy period of development that will see entries on at least two national status events and two more three-car entries (in Germany and Finland) over the next two months.

Armin Schwarz/Klaus Wicha: "I look forward all year to the Acropolis Rally. It is traditionally fast and rough and it is one of my favourite events. You need a strong and reliable car to cope with the abrasive surface that is very hard on tyres and suspension."

Janne Tuohino/Mikko Markkula: "This is a hard event but it is faster than the last two rallies. It is very easy to damage the car so you have to be clever with your driving. I won the Junior category in 2002 and was seventh here last year."

Jani Paasonen/Jani Vainikka: "This will be the first time that I have competed in Greece but I have driven the recce twice before so I have a good idea about the stages. We also had a good test in Greece so I am feeling quite confident and I hope to be able to get a solid result for the team."


The Acropolis Rally (June 23-26) marks the last in a trilogy of eastern Mediterranean events for the FIA World Rally Championship contenders, and the Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports WRC team heads to one of the oldest rallies confident in the ability of the Lancer WRC05 after promising performances in Cyprus and Turkey. Harri Rovanpera and Risto Pietilainen once again lead the assault, while "Gigi" Galli and Guido D'Amore - who briefly led the Rally of Turkey - have been rewarded for their efforts by being registered in the second Lancer WRC05.

Harri Rovanpera/Risto Pietilainen: "Greece is an event I really like", said Harri. "It's not such a difficult rally and has been quite fast in the last few years. It's no longer such a rally of survival, like it has been; now it's not so rough and you have to go flat out from the start".

Gigi Galli/Guido D'Amore: "For sure it is not an advantage to have such little experience, but Turkey was the same and hopefully we can make something good again. I think we should be careful to start with, understand the conditions and then decide on our strategy".


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Series WRC
Drivers Stéphane Sarrazin , Carlos Sainz , Harri Rovanpera , Marcus Gronholm , Petter Solberg , Sébastien Loeb , Jani Paasonen , Armin Schwarz , Timo Rautiainen , Michael Park , Marc Marti , Risto Pietilainen , Toni Gardemeister , Roman Kresta , Denis Giraudet , Gianluigi Galli , Malcolm Wilson , Guido D'Amore , Janne Tuohino , Jani Vainikka , Chris Atkinson , Klaus Wicha , Mikko Markkula , Jan Mozny , Markko Martin
Teams Citroën World Rally Team