Acropolis Rally of Greece Leg 3, 16 June 2002 Summary Just 44 of the original 84 competitors started the final leg of the 49th Acropolis Rally this morning. Ahead of them lay the last four stages in the mountainous terrain to the north of ...
Acropolis Rally of Greece Leg 3, 16 June 2002
Summary Just 44 of the original 84 competitors started the final leg of the 49th Acropolis Rally this morning. Ahead of them lay the last four stages in the mountainous terrain to the north of Itea.
The shortest leg of the event, today's stages were all repeats of roads that had been used on the previous two.
Once again the Greek summer weather conditions brought temperatures in the high 30s and uncomfortable humidity for the crews. The unforgiving stages continued to wreak havoc on the field, and Richard Burns, Freddy Loix and Alistair McRae all fell victim today.
The final result saw Colin McRae claim his third successive Acropolis Rally victory. Marcus Gronholm was second for Peugeot with Carlos Sainz third for Ford. The result extended Colin's winning record on the event to five. He also joins an elite group with Carlos Sainz and Tommi Makinen with a joint record of 24 world championship rally wins.
In the 555 Subaru camp, Petter Solberg continued his amazing recovery after the disappointment of leg 1 when he dropped to 27th place. He made further progress into the top-ten and enjoyed a thrilling battle with Harri Rovanpera for fourth. Although he was unlucky in that contest, he ended the event in the points and, remarkably, within striking distance of a podium finish. His 555 Subaru team-mate Toshi Arai finished thirteenth. In an excellent 2002 debut at the wheel of a WRC Impreza 2002, he traded times with best in the world and finished ahead of works drivers far more experienced than himself.
SS13 0858hrs Inohori II (23.00km)
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 17:35.2
Plenty of action on the opening stage of the last day. Peugeot's Richard Burns retired when the suspension on his 206 succumbed to the pounding of the stages. Burns, who held second place overnight, made it to the end of the stage but could not continue. Fellow Brit Alistair McRae's rally also came to a premature end when his Mitsubishi suffered a broken steering-arm. Meanwhile, Peugeot's Marcus Gronholm set the pace by finishing quickest, closely followed by hard-charging Markko Martin in second. 555 Subaru World Rally Team driver Petter Solberg was third - just over a second behind his young rival. However, Burns' retirement assisted Solberg and after a difficult Leg 1, the Subaru star was now in the points. Colin McRae finished fifth and held the overall lead going into SS14.
SS14 1016hrs Karoutes II (18.89km)
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 11:39.9
Further top-ten-trauma on the second stage, this time for Hyundai driver Freddy Loix. The rough Greek terrain claimed yet another victim when a rock punctured the sump on the Belgian driver's Accent WRC. Despite managing to coast to the end of the stage, Freddy's engine was as dry as the stages and he was unable to continue. Better fortune however for Peugeot as Gronholm charged home and claimed his second consecutive win.
On the two stages remaining after service, the 2001 world champion needed to find 27.6 seconds to catch Colin McRae. Subaru's Petter Solberg continued to shine, he was second on the stage and moved up to fifth place overall. After SS14 crews headed back to Parnassos for a 20-minute service.
SS15 1249hrs Elatia II (37.16km)
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 23:59.9
Despite storming through the penultimate, and longest, stage of the rally to snatch his third consecutive win, Marcus Gronholm still trailed Colin McRae by 27 seconds overall, with just one stage remaining. Petter Solberg continued his amazing top-three form and set an excellent time to move ahead of Harri Rovanpera into fourth overall. However, his lead over the Finn was slender at 0.6 seconds. But from fourth place, with less than 18kms of the rally remaining, just 20 seconds now separated him from Carlos Sainz and a potential podium finish.
SS16 1402hrs Mendenitsa II (17.34km)
Fastest Time: Rovanpera (Peugeot) 11:04.0
No last-stage dramas for Colin McRae. The Scot cruised home fourth quickest to secure his first WRC victory since Greece last year. Marcus Gronholm also held it together to collect another six points for second place while Carlos Sainz was third for four points. On the final competitive section all eyes were on Peugeot's Harri Rovanpera and his Subaru rival Petter Solberg as they jostled for overall fourth position. The tight battle went right to the wire, but although the Subaru star was quickest through the first two split times, he drifted a little wide on the final corner and Rovanpera snatched back the position by just one second. Another top-ten performance from Toshi Arai moved him further up the order, and he crossed the finish ramp in 13th place.
The Next Event
In four weeks time the World Rally Championship moves to Africa, when teams will take on what many believe to be the toughest rally of them all - the Safari Rally of Kenya. The longest event in the series, the Safari is made up of more than 1,100 km of fast dirt stages that push driver and car durability to the limit. The first leg starts from Nairobi on Friday July 12th.