Leg two of The Acropolis Rally of Greece got underway at 0715hrs this morning when 59 of the original field of 84 cars left overnight parc ferme and headed into the mountains to the north of Itea to contest the day's six stages. With the...
Leg two of The Acropolis Rally of Greece got underway at 0715hrs this morning when 59 of the original field of 84 cars left overnight parc ferme and headed into the mountains to the north of Itea to contest the day's six stages.
With the afternoon temperature peaking at 36C in the Parnassos service area, drivers once again had to contend with uncomfortable conditions inside their cars and the dusty, rock-strewn stages continued to take their toll on mechanical components.
The day proved a disaster for yesterday's overnight leader Markko Martin's when he was forced to change a wheel on SS9. The three minutes lost plunged him to ninth place on the leader-board and promoted his Ford team-mate Colin McRae into the lead. McRae held the position for the rest of the day and he will start tomorrow with a 32-second advantage over second-placed Richard Burns.
Without a doubt the most sensational performance of the day came from 555 Subaru World Rally Team driver Petter Solberg. Having put yesterday's frustrations behind him, the Norwegian star moved up ten places to end the day seventh. Driving to his true potential, Petter was never out of the top three, clinched two stage wins and has an excellent chance of collecting points tomorrow. Fellow Subaru driver Toshi Arai also put in a stong performance. Despite running an unfavourable second on the road for much of the leg, Toshi showed that he could keep pace with other far more experienced WRC drivers.
SS7 0835hrs Bauxites I (23.45km)
Fastest Time: Solberg (Subaru) 14:00.4
Following yesterday's frustrations, 555 Subaru World Rally Team driver Petter Solberg went on the attack right from the start. He claimed his second stage win of the rally on SS7 by a margin of more than seven seconds and moved up the overall order from 17th to 14th. Ford's Colin McRae was second quickest, a performance which elevated him from third to second overall. Richard Burns came in third, less than a second behind McRae. Meanwhile Ford's Estonian hero, Markko Martin, kept up the good form he'd shown on leg one and finished fourth quickest to retain his overall lead.
SS8 0958hrs Drosohori I (28.68km)
Fastest Time: Martin (Ford) 23:27.2
This was the first time that the crews tackled the 28km technical route, which is to be repeated on leg three as SS12. Markko Martin snatched his first stage win of the day and increased his overall lead on Colin McRae by a further 6.2 seconds -- moving him 57.1 seconds clear at the top of the table. 555SWRT's Petter Solberg continued his charge and finished second, leap-frogging Mitsubishi's Alistair McRae, Francois Delecour and team-mate Toshi Arai in the process. His performance on the stage was especially remarkable as 3kms from the start the steering wheel on his Impreza WRC2002 began to work loose. Co-driver Phil Mills put down his pace notes and leant across to tighten the bolts while Petter continued to drive.
By the time Phil was back on the notes Petter had driven for 6kms guided by intuition alone! Carlos Sainz finished third, followed by Colin McRae in fourth. Richard Burns was fifth, and moved up to third overall. A bad stage however for Hyundai - the team decided to withdraw Juha Kankkunen's Accent WRC3 as it was still suffering with a turbo problem that had dropped him down to 15th last night, while team-mate Freddy Loix dropped 40 seconds with a spin.
SS9 1156hrs Elatia I (37.16km)
Fastest Time: Burns (Peugeot) 24:12.6
A Greek tragedy for Markko Martin. Ford's young gun, who had led the Acropolis Rally since the start, collected two punctures on the rough terrain and had to stop to change a wheel. By the time he had completed the stage he had dropped over three and a half a minutes and plunged down to ninth on the leader board. Markko's misfortune elevated Ford team-mate Colin McRae to overall leader, but he wasn't the only casualty of the longest stage of the rally - Peugeot's Harri Rovanpera also collected a puncture and lost over a minute. Richard Burns was quickest and took his first stage win of the rally, followed by Colin McRae in second. Petter Solberg continued his excellent comeback and finished third. He moved to eighth position overall with Citroen's Sebastien Loeb the next competitor in his sights.
SS10 13.09hrs Mendenitsa I (17.34km)
Fastest Time: Stage Cancelled
SS10 was cancelled for safety reasons due to badly parked spectator cars that prevented the FIA safety vehicle from driving through. Instead, the rally cars drove the stage at road speed and then proceeded directly to service.
SS11 1534hrs Bauxites II (23.45km)
Fastest Time: Solberg (Subaru) 13:44.8
Comeback-kid Petter Solberg stormed through SS11 to clinch his second stage win of the day. He completed the repeated Bauxites section almost five seconds quicker than Marcus Gronholm who was second. Markko Martin was back on the attack too following his misfortune on SS9 and came in third. McRae was fourth to maintain overall lead, while Burns was fifth-quickest to hold second.
SS12 1657hrs Drosohori II (28.68km)
Fastest Time: Martin (Ford) 23:07.8
In common with his old team-mate Petter Solberg, SS12 saw Markko Martin on a charge to make up for lost time. He was quickest, closely followed by Petter who continued with his amazing run of top place finishes despite being caught in the dust of the car in front -- the Peugeot of Bruno Thiry -- for the last 6kms. Gronholm finished third, just over two seconds in front of Colin McRae. Unfortunately the last stage was not a good one for the Toshi Arai. The left rear tyre punctured badly about 18km from the start and he and co-driver Tony Sircombe were forced to stop and change the wheel. The incident cost the pair around three minutes and dropped them from 17th to 20th.