The Crews Tackle One Of The Classics In WRC. BP Ultimate Acropolis Rally …



30 June 2008
The seventh round of the World Rally Championship (WRC) has landed on Acropolis, Greece where reigning WRC Champion Sebastian Loeb will continue his battle for the top spot of the Drivers’ championship with Ford’s Mikko Hirvonen.

In the manufacturers’ side of things, Ford continues to withheld challenges from the likes of Citroen Sport.
Four Citroen C4 WRCs will be in Greece to take on the country’s demanding stages: two for Citroen Total crews Sebastien Loeb and Dani Sordo, plus those cars entered by Urmo Aava and Conrad Rautenbach.
Sebastien Loeb (left) has no intention of seeing his score of world class wins stagnate at 40. “It’s true, I like round numbers, but I have nothing against adding to our current tally, especially since that would mean we are competitive and fighting for the title.”
“In Sardinia, we succeeded in closing the gap with our rival, and the Acropolis Rally could be a good chance to reduce the deficit further still. It’s not my favourite rally. These rough roads make the cars suffer, and that’s not something I like.”
“The fact that we now have to run without run-flat mousse in our tyres could also see the 2008 event turn out to be something of a lottery. Let’s hope that will be the case again in Greece where we will be aiming for first place,” he added.
Team mate Dani Sordo (right) knows that he has to keep clear of punctures and be quick from the very first stage of the first leg in order to achieve top results in Acropolis.
“Running fifth on the road on Day 1 will play in our favour and I will try to make the most of that to build up a sufficient gap over our rivals. I felt very comfortable with the C4 on the Greek stages last year and I hope that will again be the case this time round.”

“This is a rally that calls for patience, endurance and taking it gently with the car. I’m hoping for a good finish; for us and for Citroen.”

Ford drivers Mikko Hirvonen and fellow Finn Jari-Matti Latvala will hope to reproduce the form which powered them to second and third in Italy earlier this month to keep the marque on top in both title races.
The team heads the manufacturers’ battle by seven points and Hirvonen (left) tops the drivers’ table by three points.
Hirvonen finished third in both 2006 and 2007 and five starts have given him plenty of experience of what lies ahead. “The Acropolis is usually the hottest rally in the championship but having been to Jordan last month where temperatures were close to 40C, I don’t think we will experience that kind of heat here.”

“The conditions are tough on cars and tyres but I’m not worried about either. The car has proved its strength many times. The tyres have also been remarkably strong this year with few punctures. The heat and rough roads will combine to make tyre wear greater than on other gravel events so I’ll need to remember that I must look after them,” he added.

Latvala (right), fourth in the drivers’ standings, made his rally debut in a Focus in Greece in 2003 when he was just 18. “That was a very special moment,” said the 23-year-old Finn.
“It was only my second world rally and I was so tired from the heat because it was a new experience for me in the hot conditions. My car was totally reliable and I finished 10th, which at 18 years old was amazing.”

“This is my fifth start but I expect it to be just as tough. My podium in Italy has given me great confidence after Argentina and Jordan weren’t so good for me, and I believe I can take that pace to Greece,” added Latvala.

The Subaru World Rally Team will finally debut the completely redesigned and eagerly anticipated Impreza WRC2008 at the classic event, after an official introduction to the car on Wednesday before the shakedown.
Aboard their new machines, Petter Solberg and Chris Atkinson will relish the challenge of the season’s toughest event at the dawn of a new era for the SWRT.
Solberg (right) said, “We finished third here last year and this time we have the new car. Still, It’s a very difficult event; very rocky and hot, and the stages have always been very rough so it’s hard on us and the cars.”
“We’ve had a few days in the new car now, so I have a good feeling from it and really hope that we’ll be in a good position to fight at the front. I’ll be at 110 per cent, definitely.”
Atkinson (left) intends to build on his recent successes and push for top spots right from the start of ceremonial preceedings. “It’s the first time out in a new car so it’s very exciting but you’re always a little cautious!”
“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to see where we are with the car. We know it’s going to be a very tough event as there are so many variables, so it won’t be easy but I hope we can take another step in the right direction and start to close up to the frontrunners,” the Australian added.
Stobart will see Henning Solberg’s (right) return to the squad as a nominated points scoring driver for Acropolis.
Joining the Norwegian as the second nominated points scorer will be Italian Gigi Galli fresh from his fourth place finish in Sardinia. Brit Matthew Wilson rounds off the terrific trio of Stobart crews as they embark on another demanding WRC quest.
The team’s goal for the event is to again close the gap to Subaru in the Manufacturers’ championship as they lurk just eight points behind the third placed Japanese outfit.
Galli (left) has also closed the gap to just four points on fifth place in the Drivers’ Championship and will be looking for another strong points haul for his championship campaign.
The Acropolis Rally is an event that Suzuki has experienced before in the Junior World Rally Championship, but this is an entirely different challenge to what is in store with the all-new Suzuki SX4 WRC in the top class.
Some aspects of the route are expected to be similar to the previous two rallies in Jordan and Sardinia, enabling Suzuki to put into practice some of the lessons learned on these two rough gravel events.
Strength and reliability are the keys to success on rallies such as the Acropolis, and the entire Suzuki World Rally Team was encouraged by a faultless run and top-10 finish for P-G Andersson (right) in Sardinia two weeks ago.
Both drivers have accumulated some experience of the Greek stages in the past. This will be Toni Gardemeister’s (left) seventh Acropolis Rally, with a best result of second overall in 2005.
Despite contesting only a limited programme in 2006, he was a solid fourth on the Acropolis two years ago as well. The challenging stages suit the 32 year-old’s fluid and precise driving style, so he is hoping to make the most of his Greek outing this year as well.
P-G Andersson has competed on the Acropolis Rally twice, on the Junior World Rally Championship with Suzuki. The Swede has mixed memories of the event: on his first experience of the rally in 2004 he rolled his Ignis Super 1600 twice, but in 2005 he won the Junior category.

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