Toyota Acropolis Rally Preview

Sainz defends championship lead in Greece Carlos Sainz and Didier Auriol lead the Toyota Castrol Team challenge for honours in the Acropolis Rally from June 7 - 9, Greece's round of the FIA World Rally Championship. Following his...

Sainz defends championship lead in Greece Carlos Sainz and Didier Auriol lead the Toyota Castrol Team challenge for honours in the Acropolis Rally from June 7 - 9, Greece's round of the FIA World Rally Championship. Following his superb second place finish in Argentina, Sainz moved into the lead of the Drivers' series once again - a position he had held for much of the season. In addition, prior to retirement, Auriol confirmed with his strong form in Argentina that his win in Spain marked the start of a concerted championship challenge. The Greek event presents the toughest challenge in the nine European rounds of the WRC. Starting in Athens, but based in Delphi, 170 kilometres to the north-west of the capital, the Acropolis is contested over rough and rocky roads, usually in extremely hot and dusty conditions. It is an event which tests cars and drivers to their limits. After his performance in Argentina, Sainz is confident of the team's chances in Greece. "We didn't start so well in Argentina but, little by little we improved the handling of the car and, by the end I was very happy with it. I have a lot of confidence with the car now for Greece - the roads are similar to Argentina in places, but a lot rougher. The main difficulty in Greece will be with tyre wear on the rocky roads - Michelin's ATS mousse system will be invaluable because we have to balance speed against the need to keep the car clear of damage" says Carlos. Following his victory in the opening round of the WRC in Monte Carlo, Sainz has been at the top of the Drivers' series for much of the year. Now at the halfway point in the season, he is again at the top. "What is important now is consistency. We had two bad results in Spain and Corsica so it was vital for our chances that we scored well in Argentina. Now we're back in business and our aim is to continue that in Greece. I won my first WRC event here for Toyota in 1990 - it would be good to repeat that success now." Team-mate Auriol is equally focused on success, especially after his Argentine performance. Although he retired with engine failure, the Frenchman was in a top three place at the time. "I have mixed thoughts after Argentina - of course I was disappointed with the result but I had such a good feeling with the car. I like the Acropolis and won there in 1992, so I'm quite hopeful for this year" said Didier. As in Argentina, the two Toyota Castrol Team Corolla WRCs will run with the floor-mounted, sequential shift gearchange system. "We feel that the hydro-electronic 'joystick' doesn't give us that much advantage on gravel, but we know that it does on asphalt" explains Auriol. In addition to the pair of Toyota Team Europe-run cars, no less than five other Corolla WRCs will be entered in the Acropolis event. Freddy Loix and Sven Smeets, who have finished second and third in Spain and Portugal respectively this year, return to action in their Marlboro Toyota Castrol Team Belgium entry. Thomas Radstrom and Rui Madeira continue their FIA Teams' Cup pursuit in their four-wheel drive, turbocharged machines, while Isolde Holderied makes her second appearance of the year. Furthermore, local driver Angelos Zivas makes his WRC debut with a Toyota Hellas-entered car while Abdullah Bakhashab chases Teams' Cup points with his Saudi Arabian-entered Celica GT-Four. The 45th Acropolis Rally starts in Athens on Sunday June 7th and encompasses 1,036.49 kilometres in its three-day format. The rally is based in the historic town of Delphi and, over the course of the first day between the capital city and Delphi, the field covers seven special stages of 132.18km distance. The second and third legs are held on the same stages, each covering 128.29kms, and the likelihood is that on the final day, the roads will be swept clear of gravel but with the chance of extra rutted sections. Event timetable Scrutineering Zappion, Athens, Saturday 6 June 09:00 – 18:00 h Leg One - Sunday 7 June Start Acropolis, Athens 08:30 h SS 1 start Pateras 09:54 h SS 7 start Karakolithos 17:03 h Finish Delphi 19:53 h (7 special stages - 130,37 kms – 366,48 kms daily distance) Leg Two - Monday 8 June Start Delphi 08:00 h SS 8 start Bauxites - Karoutes I 08:42 h SS 12 start Gravia I 14:38 h Finish Delphi 17:49 h (5 special stages – 128,14 kms – 339,02 kms daily distance) Leg Three - Tuesday 9 June Start Delphi 08:00 h SS 13 start Bauxites - Karoutes I 08:42 h SS 17 start Gravia I 14:38 h Finish Chrysso 17:24 h (5 special stages – 128,14 kms – 330,99 kms daily distance)

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Series WRC
Drivers Carlos Sainz , Didier Auriol , Thomas Radstrom , Sven Smeets , Isolde Holderied , Rui Madeira