The FIA World Rally Championship stays in the Mediterranean as teams head to Greece for round eight of the 16 event calendar. The Acropolis Rally of Greece will take place from 1 to 4 June and is the last rally before the mid-season nine week ...
The FIA World Rally Championship stays in the Mediterranean as teams head to Greece for round eight of the 16 event calendar. The Acropolis Rally of Greece will take place from 1 to 4 June and is the last rally before the mid-season nine week break.
There has been a major change in the event's format for 2006. In previous years the rally was based in central Greece around the town of Lamia, 200km North of Athens. This year the service park, Super Special stage and rally HQ will be located at the Athens Olympic stadium complex, making the rally the only event to be based entirely in a capital city.
The route takes crews to the hills north and west of Athens, with no test further than 80km from the service park. The stages combine roads used in previous years with new stretches of freshly-regraded gravel, however with large rocks littering the roads, the event retains its rough, abrasive character. With average speeds higher than those in Sardinia and temperatures approaching 40ºC, Greece is one of the toughest events of the year.
The 2006 route includes 18 special stages and 355.62 competitive kilometres. Legs one and two will feature two loops of three stages separated by a midday service halt, with two loops of two tests on Leg three. There will be two passes through the Superspecial in the Olympic stadium built for the 2004 games on Thursday and Sunday, with an expected crowd of more than 60,000 fans. The podium finish is scheduled for 1530hrs in the stadium on Sunday.
The Subaru World Rally Team will enter two Impreza WRC2006s. One car will be driven by Petter Solberg (co-driven by Phil Mills) with the other by Chris Atkinson (co-driven by Glenn Macneall).
Subaru has won the Acropolis Rally four times in the last 10 years. Colin McRae drove to victory in 1996 and 1998, with Richard Burns sealing a third Greek win for the team in 1999. Petter Solberg scored the seventh win of his career at the event in 2004.
The Acropolis Rally will be Solberg's 100th WRC start. The 31-year-old will become the youngest driver to reach this total. Solberg made his world-level debut at the 1998 Swedish Rally and has since secured 13 wins, 17 podiums and the 2003 drivers' world title. Chris Atkinson starts his second Acropolis Rally this year.
"Of course I was disappointed not to have finished higher in Sardinia as we did have the pace when everything went well. I never give up though and I'm going to Greece with the same goal I always have - to win. I enjoy the rally, I got my first podium there and this time it will be my 100th start. I want to make it a memorable one."
"The stages are all new for this year so we'll be learning them the same as everyone else on the recce. I'm quite positive about Greece. I was happy with the improvements we found in the test we did in Greece earlier this month. We found a good set-up that worked well in Sardinia and we will use more or less the same again in Greece. We showed in Italy that we had the speed to get a good finish and score some points, in Greece we've got to follow this through. I'm aiming for a top six."
The Car / The Challenge
Subaru World Rally Sporting Director, Luis Moya:
"This year the route includes a mixture of old and new roads. All of them are based around Athens and we expect that, in general, the event will be tough, although we'll have to wait until the recce to see just how rough the stages really are. The event is very demanding for drivers as ambient temperatures are high and it's important that crews are fit, which is why our drivers and co-drivers are going to a fitness training camp before the event.
We've shown on other challenging rallies, such as Mexico and Argentina, that we can perform well. We got two podiums in difficult conditions on both these events as we found a good balance between durability and performance. In Sardinia too we demonstrated we could run at the top end of the field and were unfortunate not to finish higher than we did.
Our goal now is to have an acceptable finish for both Petter and Chris. Petter could well finish in the top three, depending on how the event pans out. In Sardinia Chris followed the strategy, but a mistake on the last day dropped him down the order. His aim for Greece is to have a rally without errors and finish in the top six."
Subaru World Rally Team Director of Engineering, Steve Farrell:
"This is the second of two paired events where the same engine, chassis and transmission must be used. It's a tough event that has many potential hazards including rocks on the racing line and temperatures as high as 40ºC, so punctures, pierced sumps and engine cooling are just some of the things you've got to look out for.
We tested in Greece before Sardinia and were pleased with the results. We picked roads that are similar to the conditions we expect so we could determine a representative set-up. This rally, however, is not just about set-up - the conditions are very demanding and you've got to have a car that's reliable and capable of an acceptable speed. Our reliability so far has been quite good though and if you look at Sardinia, we were very competitive the second time through the stages.
Pirelli has a new version of the XR, which is a good tyre and should suit the conditions well. It's durable and designed to run in tough conditions so we hope the car and tyre package will work well together."
Between the Events
Chris Atkinson went on a long 1,000km road trip with the Subaru B9 Tribeca after Rally d'Italia Sardegna. The Australian met the Subaru World Rally Team transporter when it arrived in the Italian mainland to pick up the car and drive to Ancona in the north east of Italy. On the way Chris stopped at Modena and Pisa to do a spot of sightseeing. From Ancona Chris took a 20-hour ferry to Greece to continue his trip down to Athens where he will meet team-mate Petter Solberg and the team's performance trainer John Mills for two days fitness training.
Petter Solberg spent just one day at home before flying to the UK for a two-day development test in Sweet Lamb, Wales. On Friday he will fly to Greece to join Chris and John for the fitness training camp. Over the two days the drivers have a full schedule of mountain biking, running and aerobic exercise to acclimatise to the hot weather, but they might just have time for a quick round of golf too. Co-drivers Phil Mills and Glenn Macneall will join the group on Sunday.