Loeb tops Acropolis shakedown
Sebastien Loeb has set the pace in shakedown for the Acropolis Rally, which gets underway with the first of 18 special stages tomorrow (Friday).
Driving a Citroen DS3 WRC, the seven-time world champion recorded a fastest time of 2m15.5s over the 6.05-kilometre practice stage east of the permanent service park in Loutraki.
Overnight rain created a muddy surface but the conditions soon improved as the ambient temperature rose and the road dried out.
Afterwards Loeb, who currently tops the World Rally Championship by 13 points, said: “Like every rally I hope to be able to fight for the victory. But for sure it’s more important to score some points. I’m in a good position in the championship and it’s important not to loose too much. For the rest we will see.
“It’s a rough rally, difficult for the tyres and suspension, and maybe the hardest rally of the season for the cars. We have to take care a bit in some places but when you are fighting for the second you can’t loose too much.”
“What we saw in recce is that it will be a disadvantage to be first on the road. But now it has been raining since the recce I don’t know for tomorrow.”
Petter Solberg was second fastest behind Loeb in his privately-entered DS3 WRC. The Norwegian set his best time on his fifth and final run, seven-tenths of a second slower than Loeb, after changing his car’s suspension dampers following his second run.
Mikko Hirvonen was the leading Ford Fiesta RS WRC driver in third with Loeb’s Citroen team-mate Sebastien Ogier fourth.
Henning Solberg, absent on the previous round in Argentina, made the most of the running time to experiment with the set-up of his Fiesta, completing a total of eight runs alongside co-driver Ilka Minor. He ended up fifth fastest, one place ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, who returns to the WRC for the first time since the Jordan Rally in mid-April.
Local hero Lambros Athanassoulas used the shakedown to drive his Team Greece-entered Ford Fiesta RS WRC in anger for the first time. He said: “We made adjustments to the rear suspension. I was feeling confident in the car but we were losing a lot of time because I am still learning the car.”
MINI John Cooper Works WRC driver Armindo Araujo hit trouble in shakedown when he was forced to stop in the stage with broken front suspension.