Ford Martini drivers turn up the heat in Greece Both Ford Focus World Rally Cars of Colin McRae and Thomas RÃ¥dstrom posted top six times as Greece's Acropolis Rally began this afternoon with a spectacular super special stage south of Athens.
Ford Martini drivers turn up the heat in Greece
Both Ford Focus World Rally Cars of Colin McRae and Thomas Rådstrom posted top six times as Greece's Acropolis Rally began this afternoon with a spectacular super special stage south of Athens. McRae and co-driver Nicky Grist were equal fourth fastest while Ford Martini World Rally Team colleagues Rådstrom and co-driver Fred Gallagher were sixth in the second Focus.
Greece is in the midst of an early summer heatwave and cloudless skies and searing temperatures greeted drivers as they started this eighth round of the FIA World Rally Championship from below the historic Acropolis and headed out of Athens to the short purpose-built 2.40km stage at Anavissos. Large crowds and live television coverage nationwide added to the spectacle of two cars racing alongside each other on the dusty test, a forerunner to the traditional Acropolis Rally stages which begin tomorrow.
McRae and Grist were just 0.7 sec slower than the fastest time with Rådstrom and Gallagher 1.2 sec down.
News from our Rivals Finn Marcus Gronholm sprang a surprise by setting fastest time in the new Peugeot 206, competing on only its second rally and its first loose surface event. He was just 0.1sec faster than Belgian Freddy Loix (Mitsubishi) with Carlos Sainz (Toyota) third, 0.3 sec behind the leader. Auriol and the two Ford drivers completed the top six. None of the leading drivers suffered problems and just 1.5 sec covered the top 10.
Tomorrow's Route Drivers restart from Agii Theodori at 08.00 for a tough loop over rocky gravel mountain tracks north-west of Athens and competitors must prepare for some of the roughest roads of the event. Seven stages lie in wait before returning for the overnight halt at 17.05. Almost 136km of competition was scheduled but since practice ended, organisers have decided to cancel the opening 18.41km of the 26km Pateras test, stage three, on safety grounds because the high-speed roads were just too rough.
Key Stage Nicky Grist: "Now that the organisers have shortened Pateras, I would say that the first stage in the morning is the most difficult of the leg. The last section includes a fast descent to the finish and there are a lot of large rocks in the road which, if hit at speed, could inflict damage severe enough to end our rally there and then."