Petter Solberg endured another tough time on today's second Leg of the Acropolis Rally of Greece. Starting this morning from 14th place overall, after problems on yesterday's first Leg, his opportunities to fight back were badly affected by a poor...
Petter Solberg endured another tough time on today's second Leg of the Acropolis Rally of Greece. Starting this morning from 14th place overall, after problems on yesterday's first Leg, his opportunities to fight back were badly affected by a poor starting position. Despite running as the second car through the sandy and slippery stages, Solberg made up five places during the day and holds ninth place overnight. Re-starting the rally today under the Superally system, Stephane Sarrazin enjoyed a trouble-free Leg in his Impreza WRC2005. On only the second gravel rally of his career, the Frenchman grew in confidence throughout the day and traded stage times with other far more experienced WRC drivers.
SS8 0919hrs Koumaritsi 1 (7.71km)
Leg two of the Acropolis Rally comprised of a repeated loop of four gravel stages in the countryside south of the host town Lamia. In dry and sunny conditions, crews left the overnight park ferme for a ten-minute service halt before driving 27km to the start of the short test at Koumaritsi. The running order for Leg two saw the top-15 tackle the stages in reverse order. This gave local hero Armodios Vovos the dubious honour of going first and sweeping away the worst of the loose gravel. Petter Solberg's overnight position of fourteenth meant he was next through and would still encounter a lot of loose material. In the slippery conditions he set the fifth-fastest time. Sebastien Loeb's Citroen was the fifteenth car through and the Frenchman made the most of the cleaner road to set the fastest time and keep the overall lead of the rally. Marcus Gronholm was second-fastest to hold the same position overall. Roman Kresta became the first retirement of Leg two when his car stopped with an electrical problem on the road section before the stage. Subaru's Chris Atkinson was another absentee from the second day of competition. The Australian retired from Leg one with an engine problem and had hoped to re-start today under Superally regulations until an inspection last night revealed his engine was too badly damaged. Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 4:56.1
SS9 0939hrs Pavliani 1 (24.45km)
After finishing the previous stage, crews drove directly to the start of SS9, the longest of the Leg. Sebastien Loeb was quickest once again but this time pulled further ahead of Marcus Gronholm who was 5.7 seconds slower. Loeb extended his overall lead to 12.5 seconds. Skoda's Jani Paasonen retired after going off the road, he will not re-start on Leg three. Stephane Sarrazin was twelfth-quickest as he continued to learn more about the Acropolis stages and get experience of his Impreza WRC2005. Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 19:33.9
SS10 1028hrs Stromi 1 (14.61km)
Sebastien Loeb and Marcus Gronholm continued to battle hard as they tackled the first of two passes through Stromi, the stage Phil Mills reckons is the roughest of the rally. Loeb was quickest to maintain his run of wins, while Gronholm was second, six seconds back. Citroen privateer Manfred Stohl was third, almost nine seconds off Gronholm's pace through the 14km section. The stage ended with a 10km high-speed downhill sprint to the finish, but Stephane Sarrazin hit problems as he closed in on the car ahead, got caught in the dust cloud and had to slow down. Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 11:31.0
SS11 1141hrs Amfissa 1 (14.59km)
Loeb and Gronholm dominated the action on the final test of the morning loop. Despite collecting a front puncture, Sebastien collected his fifth consecutive stage victory and extended his lead over Marcus Gronholm to 25 seconds. The uphill stage, which climbs through an old bauxite mining area, proved problematic for many competitors. Ford privateer Henning Solberg drove off the road, damaged his car and retired, while an electrical problem cost Gigi Galli more than 30 seconds. Petter Solberg pushed as hard as the slippery conditions would allow and moved back into the overall top ten, but still more than four minutes adrift of the leaders. The Norwegian reported that although he was the second car to tackle each stage, his driving line was so different from the one left by Vovos that he might as well have been first. After crossing the finish line crews headed directly to Lamia for a 30-minute service. Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 9:14.1
SS12 1433 Koumaritsi 2 (7.71km)
Fresh from the service area, crews returned to the shortest stage of the rally, Koumaritsi, to begin the repeat loop of the morning's four stages. Sebastien Loeb maintained his pace to take another win, with Gigi Galli his closest competition on this occasion. Marcus Gronholm was third quickest. There were no problems for any of the leading drivers and after the finish control crews went directly to the start of SS13. Fastest Stage Time:
SS13 1453 Pavliani 2 (24.45km)
After keeping the pressure on Sebastien Loeb all day, Marcus Gronholm's attack fell to pieces on SS13 when a driveshaft broke on his Peugeot. The Finn lost a minute to his competitors and dropped from second to fourth overall, with further time loss inevitable on the Leg's two remaining stages. Toni Gardemeister was second-quickest and moved from fourth to second on the overall leaderboard, overtaking Carlos Sainz in the process. Mark Higgins retired from the Leg when his car went off the road. Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 19:22.2
SS14 1542 Stromi 2 (14.61km)
Without the pressure of a chasing Marcus Gronholm, and with a comfortable rally lead of 1min 15sec, Sebastien Loeb said the biggest problem he now faced was remaining concentrated enough to avoid mistakes. Instead of easing off the pace, the Frenchman kept his foot down to take another stage win and extend his lead by five more seconds. Gardemeister was second and Carlos Sainz third. Unable to repair his car's broken driveshaft, Gronholm lost another 42 seconds to Loeb, although he held on to fourth place overall. Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 11:20.6
SS15 1655 Amfissa 2 (14.59km)
Sebastien Loeb was fastest through the final stage of the day to complete a clean sweep of wins on Leg two. The Frenchman's lead over Toni Gardemeister now stood at 1 min 24 secs. Although Loeb looked relatively secure, Gardemeister and Sainz were still locked in a frantic battle for the runner-up spot. Sainz was third-quickest on the stage and will start tomorrow's final Leg just seven seconds behind Toni. Another solid performance from Petter Solberg saw him make up another place on the leaderboard, to move ahead of Tobias Johansson into ninth place, with Markko Martin the next driver in his sights. His confidence increasing with every stage, Stephane Sarrazin was eleventh, finishing ahead of other works drivers with far more experience. Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 9:01.2
Subaru World Rally Team Principal, David Lapworth
"Even though he's driven well today, and has had a totally reliable car, Petter hasn't been rewarded with the result he deserves. Taking into consideration his placement on the road, and the fact that he's been effectively cleaning the roads for the drivers behind, it's been very hard for him to make up the time deficit. Stephane has proved that he learns very quickly. After just four days of gravel rally experience he already understands a lot about the car and tyre set-up options. He's developed a very good relationship with his engineers and I think we can look forward to more positive steps from him tomorrow."
"It's been a very difficult day. Running so close to the head of the field meant we had the worst possible road surface, and we simply couldn't go any faster. There was a lot of fine, sandy gravel out there and it was very, very slippery. I did my best, and the car has been perfectly reliable, but it was never going to be enough to make up for the road position. It's frustrating to be so uncompetitive on stages that I won last year - but I suppose not entirely unexpected in the circumstances. We made a few adjustments to the car set-up at the mid-point service, but somehow the package didn't come together properly. For tomorrow we'll keep fighting, keep doing our best, and aim to take away as many points as possible."
"I'm finding this rally is a lot harder than Sardinia, but I'm enjoying the challenge. I felt a lot more confident on the second pass through the stages this afternoon, we took a different tyre and of course had the benefit of experience at that point, but it felt much better. There are still plenty of areas in which I can improve - my pace notes for instance are still too cautious - but I'm happy with the progress. It's good to be exchanging times with some of the more experienced gravel drivers. The car has run perfectly, we've had no problems at all, and I'm looking forward to the final four new stages tomorrow."
News From Pirelli
Fiore Brivio, Pirelli Tyres Rally Manager:
"Petter started off today with the considerable handicap of running second on the road. We tried our best to give him tyres which were able to make the best of that situation, and move up the points scoring places, and I hope that we have succeeded in achieving this objective."