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Greece (S) - 16-19 Jun 11

Posted: June 23, 2011 11:53 AM - 4901 Hits

Round 7 - 2011 World Rally Championship
S - S2000 Championship

Points for Petter Solberg and Kimi Räikkönen

Posted: June 23, 2011 11:53 AM

Petter Solberg and Chris Patterson set the early pace in Greece before finishing fourth on the Acropolis Rally, round seven of the FIA World Rally Championship. Kimi Räikkönen and Kaj Lindström proved to be increasingly competitive, finally finishing in seventh overall on the event. The two Citroën DS3 WRCs entered by Van Merksteijn Motorsport retired on the opening day of the rally.

Petter Solberg and Chris Patterson have been among the frontrunners since the start of the season, and they were the first to show their true form on the tricky Greek stages. They strung together four fastest stage times to occupy the top of the time sheets by the end of the first day of the Acropolis Rally on Friday.

Petter and Chris established an advantage of more than 50 seconds over the chasing trio that consisted of Sébastien Loeb, Mikko Hirvonen and Sébastien Ogier, but this consequently forced them into running first on the road throughout Saturday. The loose surface caused the crew some difficulties, but nonetheless the Petter Solberg World Rally Team duo managed to end the day on the provisional podium, just 20 seconds or so off the leaders. Petter Solberg fought against Mikko Hirvonen on the final day to end up fourth at the finish, scoring 12 precious championship points.

“I pushed really hard and gave it everything I had,” said the Norwegian. “I’m pleased with our performance and my driving as well as with the team, who all did a fantastic job. We couldn’t have done better; it just wasn’t possible. We’re a private team and we’re fighting against the factory outfits.” Kimi Räikkönen and Kaj Lindström missed the previous two events, which were not on their programme, but they were soon back into the groove from the very beginning. By the end of the opening day they were 10th despite a puncture. They then picked up their pace throughout Saturday to make progress up the leaderboard and claim seventh place on SS8. The Ice 1 Racing crew showed their consistency to hold onto the position until the end, having managed their rally perfectly.

“We weren’t the quickest out there but our goal was to steer clear of problems in order to be there at the end,” said the Finnish driver. “The final two days in Greece were extremely satisfying. It’s a great result for us before heading to Rally Finland.”

The two Citroën DS3 WRCs entered by Van Merksteijn Motorsport did not make it to the end of the opening day.
Peter van Merksteijn Jr went off the road on SS3. His co-driver Eddy Chevaillier was taken to hospital in Lamia and then airlifted to Athens for further medical examination. He has a fracture and a crack in his lumbar vertebrae, which will mean that he needs to be immobilised for about 10 days. The entire Citroën Racing team wishes him a full and swift recovery. Peter van Merskteijn Sr went off the road in the team’s other DS3 WRC on SS5.

The Citroën DS3 WRCs rack up another double!

Posted: June 23, 2011 11:51 AM

In Greece, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia scored their fifth world championship victory after a thrilling duel with their teammates, Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena. This result gave Citroën its 22nd doublé in the World Rally Championship, an outright record! Thanks to their 100th podium in the WRC, Loeb and Elena have increased their lead in the Drivers’ World Championship. The Citroën Total World Rally Team too has widened the gap in the Manufacturers’ title chase.

After two long legs, the last day of the Acropolis Rally was like a final sprint with only 65 timed kilometers.
But the two passages through Aghii Theodori – a stage that has often decided the outcome of the event – meant that the crews had to tackle it in a humble frame of mind. Sébastien Loeb, the overall leader with only 2.2s in hand over his nearest pursuer, and handicapped by the cleaning phenomenon, knew it would be difficult for him to fight for victory. In the first passage through Aghii Theodori (SS14), Sébastien Ogier overtook the seven-time world champion to lead by a tenth of a second. But Loeb fought back and retook first place in New Pissia 1, also by a tenth!

“I’m in a situation in which I have to take risks to defend my position. I pushed even harder compared to the first two days,” he admitted at the mid-leg halt. “Despite that it went off well and we managed a good damage limitation exercise. As for winning, I don’t know yet. I’ll have to see how big the impact of cleaning is second time through.”

“Seb was very quick and we didn’t make up much time on him. I thought that cleaning would play a more important role this morning. Maybe I didn’t push hard enough. I’ll have to up the pace and take more risks second time though,” added Ogier.

While Loeb stated that he had driven a perfect stage in Aghii Theodori 2, Ogier made the break and pulled out 6.2s over his team-mate. He was back in the lead again and he put himself out of range of a possible attack in New Pissia 2 increasing the gap to over 10 seconds. The 4-kilometer Power Stage changed nothing and Ogier set the quickest time, 9/1000s in front of Loeb: The Citroën drivers scored an additional 2 and 3 points each. Ogier savoured his third victory of the season: “This perfect result, rewarded by twenty-eight points, is going to do our championship hopes a lot of good! I’d really like to thank the whole team for two things. One, it gave Seb and I the same chances to battle for victory, and I’m proud to have honoured their trust with a win.
Secondly, I have to underline the reliability of the DS3 WRC, which had a problem-free three days in a race that was run at high speed.”

Despite his frustration at having been first out on the road for two days, Loeb also drew positive conclusions:
“Before the start I wasn’t gunning for outright victory above all else. I gave everything I had, but race circumstances meant that I wasn’t able to fight on equal terms. I still think I was the quickest. The twenty points I’ve scored will help me open up the gap over Mikko Hirvonen even further.”
“This double that we’ve racked up on our rivals’ favourite hunting ground is a fantastic result for Citroën,” summed up Olivier Quesnel, the Citroën Racing Team Principal. “I’m very happy for our two drivers who have both scored precious points in the world championship. With six victories in seven rallies, we can be very proud of our first part of the season.”

KUIPERS SCORES POINTS IN GRUELLING ACROPOLIS RALLY

Posted: June 23, 2011 11:49 AM

Dennis Kuipers and Frederic Miclotte have once again managed to score World Championship points in the Ford Fiesta RS WRC. In a gruelling edition of the Acropolis Rally, the FERM team finished tenth overall and eighth in the Manufacturers’ championship. "I know now: in the Acropolis you get nothing free."

Tenth position brings Kuipers his fourth World Cup in six consecutive rallies, his navigator Fred doubles his season total to two points. The four points earned in Greece bring the FERM World Rally Team scored to a total of 14. "I had been told in advance what to expect, but now I've experienced it myself I know why this rally is one of the toughest in the WRC" said Kuipers after his debut in the legendary Greek classic. "The roads are really rough, the stages are long and the heat exhausting."

The rally demanded the FERM team to do their outmost to achieve a great performance. The struggle began after the ceremonial start at the Acropolis. "Friday we found our rhythm quite quickly, even though the last race had been a while back," says Dennis. It resulted in twelfth position after the opening day.

During the long Saturday Dennis and Fred leaped forward. After the second stage on the day , the FERM duo were in tenth position and in contention for points. During the night stage, Bernardo Sousa overtaken and they moved up to ninth.. Kuipers: "From morning until eleven hours at night in the car is incredibly heavy. I'm glad I worked on my fitness in the last weeks, this came in very handy today. "

On the final day Ford Abu Dhabi Team driver Jari-Matti Latvala overtook the FERM team. In the remaining five stages the tenth position was successfully defended. "Once again, world championship points, really great!" shouts Kuipers at the finish. "I'm really happy because this is a very tough and competitive rally. I know now: in the Acropolis you get nothing free. "

Frédéric Miclotte Navigator is also delighted with the strong results. "Dennis and I grab a point and for the FERM team four points. We have quickly picked up pace and made no serious mistakes, which would have been very feasible in the legendary rally" concludes the Belgian navigator.

ACTION-PACKED S-WRC SEES FIESTA S2000 SECURE TWO PODIUM SPOTS

Posted: June 23, 2011 11:20 AM

This weekend’s Acropolis Rally of Greece saw two Ford Fiesta S2000 crews on the podium in the Super 2000 World Rally Championship (S-WRC) with Bernardo Sousa finishing second and Frigyes Turán securing third.

The Greek edition of the WRC has lived up to its reputation as one of the fiercest rallies in the championship as only five of the original ten S-WRC competitors made it to the end of the fourth round of the S-WRC without SupeRallying.

At the eight-round championship’s half-way point, the Ford Fiesta S2000 is well-placed to fight for title contention with Martin Prokop lying 11 points behind championship leader Juho Hänninen. After landing his second podium of the year, Sousa lies third in the overall standings with 43 points.

Estonia’s Ott Tänak led the S-WRC at the end of the first day but a roll on Saturday’s opening stage saw the young driver’s challenge for his third podium vanish before his eyes. Tänak is now fifth in the overall championship standings, 21 points adrift of Hänninen.

Despite racking up 12 fastest stage times over the weekend, a series of problems on Friday and Saturday morning hindered Nasser Al-Attiyah from chasing his first S-WRC victory of the season.

After an unlucky start to his first S-WRC season, Hungary’s Frigyes Turán had a near-perfect run in his Ford Fiesta S2000 to consolidate his first podium finish.

Bernardo Sousa
S-WRC position: 2
Final position: 11
Reigning Portuguese Rally Champion Bernardo Sousa got off to a strong start at the fourth round of the S-WRC when he had a clear run through Friday’s stages situated next to Mount Kallidromo. He was lying third in S-WRC (11th overall) at the end of the first day.

Saturday’s notoriously rocky roads proved troublesome for Sousa as his Ford Fiesta S2000 suffered a puncture 12 km before the end of Stage 7. This was followed by a small off after a bumpy section on Stage 12. During the day’s closing night stage, Sousa had a small problem with the differential and the gearbox which meant he could only drive in front-wheel-drive. The incident knocked the young driver back into tenth overall but moved Sousa up into second in S-WRC, with a lead of one minute over Turán in third place.

Sousa had a clear run through Sunday’s stages in order to consolidate his second podium in the S-WRC this year. The Madeira-born driver’s strong performance this weekend has promoted Sousa into third of the overall standings and he remains in a good position to fight for title contention.

Bernardo Sousa said:
“We’ve made it to the end of a difficult rally and I’m delighted with my position. The stages have been very rough this weekend – I’d say Saturday’s stages were the worst as they were just so rough and there were rocks everywhere. We have all been going very fast and when I feel confident with the car handling it's possible to set good times. We’ve just tried to find a good rhythm and to avoid any problems. The priority was to get to the end of the rally but to finish with a podium is a bonus. We’re now half way through the year and if the second half of the season goes as well as the first then I will be very happy with how the year has gone.”

Frigyes Turán
S-WRC position: 3
Final position: 13
Despite making his debut at Acropolis Rally of Greece this weekend, Frigyes Turán had a successful start after encountering no problems on Friday to hold fifth in S-WRC (14th overall) at the end of day halt.

A trouble-free day followed on Saturday and the Hungarian driver adopted a mature driving approach to tackle the notoriously rocky and twisty roads in the Peloponnese peninsula. By the end of the day, Turán had moved up to third in S-WRC and remained 14th overall.

Turán’s aim for the final day of action was to have a clear run and to consolidate his third place position which the Hungarian successfully managed. A delighted Turán pulled into the final service delighted with his performance and leaves his first ever Greek event with a well-deserved 15 championship points.

Frigyes Turán said:
“This is a dream come true for me – it’s been a great rally and we’ve had very few problems. We did exactly what we had planned to do - to have a clear run and to finish with some championship points. I never expected to finish on the podium so this a bonus, I’m really very happy. In every stage I felt I was getting more confident that we were getting closer to the other guys. Now I’m got a good feeling for the remaining S-WRC rounds, I hope to challenge for more points and to achieve another podium would be an excellent result for us.”

Martin Prokop
S-WRC position: 5
Final position: 15
Martin Prokop’s fight to lead the championship got off to a shaky start when his Ford Fiesta S2000 developed problems with the rear differential on the rally’s opening stage. With no opportunity to make repairs at the remote service in Kamena Vourla, Prokop was forced to drive for the remainder of the day in rear-wheel drive only, experiencing significant time loss in the process. The Czech finished the day seventh in S-WRC (18th overall).

On Stage 8 Prokop was caught in the dust of fellow S-WRC competitor Eyvind Brynildsen incurring a small time loss. However, the remainder of the day was trouble-free and Prokop moved up to fifth by the end of Stage 13, one minute and 34 seconds ahead of fellow Fiesta S2000 driver Nasser Al-Attiyah.

The final day of action saw Prokop consolidate his fifth place in S-WRC and the former J-WRC champion sealed 10 well-earned championship points. The Czech driver is now placed second in the overall championship standings.

Martin Prokop said:
“It’s been such a difficult weekend but I’m really happy to have made it to the end and to have scored some points from this rally. Friday was so difficult having to drive on such rough roads with rear-wheel drive only as there was just no traction at all. We were sliding and spinning a lot bur Saturday and Sunday went much better. It is not all bad, we have got to the end of the rally and we finished fifth so have some points for the championship. We must try to push on the next couple of events and hope that I can get back to the top of the standings.”

Nasser Al-Attiyah
S-WRC position: 6
Final position: 16
Reigning Dakar Rally Champion Nasser Al-Attiyah got off to a perfect start as he was fastest through the rally opening’s stage but his challenge for his first S-WRC victory was ended when his power steering failed. As a result, Al-Attiyah lost more than two minutes on Stage 2 but repairs resulted in his second fastest time of the morning on Stage 4. Stage 5, however, saw more problems for the Qatari driver as he was forced to retire due to a broken wheel and brake problems.

Al-Attiyah returned for Saturday but overshot a junction on Stage 7 and then had problems on Stage 8 when a suspension arm bolt worked loose on his Ford Fiesta S2000. This was then followed by a 40 second penalty as Al-Attiyah was four minutes late into Stage 9. After an eventful morning, a trouble-free afternoon followed for the Qatari driver and at the end of Day 2, Al-Attiyah was sixth in S-WRC.

A clear run on the final day saw Al-Attiyah finish sixth in S-WRC and 16th overall. He racked up an impressive 12 fastest stage times but due to the significant time loss incurred on Friday he was unable to battle for a podium finish.

Nasser Al-Attiyah said:
“I feel I have no luck in this championship, it’s been one problem after another this year which is so frustrating. When everything is going OK we can get good times and I am confident that I can challenge for a win but unfortunately it doesn’t work out like this as things can go wrong. We’re half way through the championship now and although the title is looking out of my reach, I would still like to take some wins in the second half of the season. I just hope for some better luck and then I hope championship points will follow.”

Ott Tänak
S-WRC position: Retired
Final position: N/A
Markko Märtin’s protégé Ott Tänak took the S-WRC championship lead when early leader Nasser Al-Attiyah hit trouble on Stage 2. Three fastest stage times saw Tänak gradually extend his advantage over the other S-WRC competitors and the 20-year-old led the championship by 29.2 seconds by the end of the first day.

Saturday, however, did not fare well for Tänak as the young driver rolled 500 m into the day’s opening stage causing extensive damage to the front and right of his Ford Fiesta S2000. Tänak nursed his damaged car to the end of the stage but lost 15 minutes as a result of the incident. The Estonian driver then stopped before Stage 9 as the damaged incurred was too much for the car to be able to continue.

When the car was returned to service, the damage sustained on Tänak’s Fiesta S2000 was declared too bad for the Estonian to return under SupeRally for Sunday’s action. Tänak’s retirement now means that he drops down the overall S-WRC championship standings and now lies fifth overall.

Ott Tänak said:
“On Friday evening I thought that a victory could be possible but now I am very disappointed. We were told that we could not restart on Sunday as the damage from the impact on Stage 7 was too much for the car. This is not a very long championship and we only have four events remaining so it is a big blow for this to happen. Now I just hope that the remaining rallies will go OK and that I can secure more points in order to remain in the fight for the championship title.”

STOBART’S SOLBERG RETURNS TO WRC WITH STERLING PERFORMANCE

Posted: June 23, 2011 11:19 AM

Henning Solberg showed a return to form for the M-Sport Stobart Ford World Rally Team with his fifth place finish at the Acropolis Rally of Greece this weekend. Team-mate Matthew Wilson finished one place behind Solberg piloting the team’s other Ford Fiesta RS WRC.

Solberg’s result also marks a continuation in the team’s string of top five finishes this season and successfully marks their seventh consecutive top five result in this year’s FIA World Rally Championship.

Four drivers were entered under the M-Sport Stobart Ford World Rally Team banner in Greece this weekend but it was Russia’s Evgeny Novikov who set the pace for the team after posting a third-quickest time on the rally’s opening 23.60 km stage. However, the flying Russian’s mission was abruptly ended when he suffered suspension damage on Stage 2 which led to an early retirement.

The unforgiving roads also took their toll on M-Sport Stobart’s Mads Østberg who had a small off on Stage 4 and damaged the front of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC which also led to his retirement.

As temperatures soared to a staggering 35 degrees Celsius, the remaining crews of Henning Solberg and Matthew Wilson led the way for the squad and finished the day in the team’s Ford Fiesta RS World Rally Cars in fifth and sixth place respectively.

Saturday’s stages situated in the heart of the Peloponnese peninsula were reported by the WRC drivers as the roughest and most challenging of the rally. Solberg suffered problems with the brakes on his Ford Fiesta RS WRC which cost the leading M-Sport Stobart crew time loss on the morning pass. However, the pair had a clear afternoon and consolidated their position inside the top five at the end of the second day.

Britain’s Matthew Wilson was hampered by an intermittent misfire during Saturday’s stages but he and co-driver Scott Martin successfully maintained their lead over former Formula One Champion Kimi Räikkönen and were lying sixth going into the final day. Wilson’s team changed the fuel injectors on the 24-year-old’s Ford Fiesta RS WRC at the end of day service in an attempt to fix the misfire.

The notoriously quick Evgeny Novikov returned to Saturday’s rally to set a series of blisteringly quick times but fell foul to the rock-strewn stages when he suffered a rear-left puncture at the end of Stage 9. On the road section to Stage 12, Novikov and co-driver Denis Giraudet’s mission was halted when the pair were forced to retire due to a broken alternator belt.

Østberg and co-driver Jonas Andersson returned to Saturday’s rally on top form when they posted a third-quickest time on the day’s opening 17.41 km stage. The pair drove faultlessly throughout the rest of the day, successfully jumping up the overall WRC leaderboard from 25th to 14th at the end of Day 2.

Sunday’s stages saw Russia’s flying Novikov prove his ability behind the wheel of a World Rally Car as he set three top five stage times including a third-fastest time on Stage 15. Wilson suffered from a lack of engine power on the day’s penultimate stages but still pulled into the final service sixth overall.

Solberg and Østberg had a relatively trouble-free day and the squad’s Scandinavian crews pulled into the final service in sixth and 12th place respectively.

Henning Solberg said:
“I am very happy with my position. I just hoped to come back today and drive to the finish with no problems and that has been the case so that is good. We have had our share of bad luck at times, mostly with the brakes yesterday but the car worked very well on Friday and for today. I’ve also been awarded the Spirit of the Rally award which I’m very pleased about. It just feels great to be back in the WRC and we hope to come back even stronger for the second half of the year. I will try my best in Finland and push for a good result to see what we can do, that is all I hope for.”

Matthew Wilson said:
“It’s been a long, tough rally so to finish in sixth is a result I am happy with. We liked the stages today – we wanted to try and push for some good times but we didn’t want to do anything stupid and lose our position. We knew the Power Stage really well so we were looking for a good time but we lost all the power at the start of the test which was a bit frustrating. We were so close to scoring a point in the Power Stage at Rally Argentina so I really thought we might be able to push for a good result there but then we had our problem. For sure, it’s positive to finish sixth – we mostly kept out of trouble and I think that’s the most important factor in a rally as tough as this. There’s been a few niggling problems – most of them we’ve been able to sort but there was just a couple of smaller issues which I hope will be sorted for next time.”

Mads Østberg said:
“It’s been a very up and down weekend for us with a few small issues. I’ve certainly learned a lot but it’s not the result that I had hoped for. I was disappointed after our problems on Stage 4 on Friday but that is how it goes sometimes. Yesterday went better for us, I was feeling more confident with the car and I managed to set some good times but then we had to take this morning very carefully as the steering rack was loose. I’ve got a rally in Estonia in the middle of July which I will hopefully contest in the Ford Fiesta RS WRC so it will be a good test before Finland at the end of next month. I’d really like to push the top guys some more and finish with another top five result.”

Evgeny Novikov said:
“We have been going flat out today – really pushing to the maximum. I’ve really enjoyed this weekend - when it’s been going well, I can get some good times. It’s just disappointing that we had to retire on Friday as I think we could have got a good result with some of our stages times we’ve had. It’s gone very well with Denis [Giraudet] as my co-driver this weekend – he’s very good but at my next rally in Finland I will have Stephane back with me in the car. I hope to have no problems there and to go flat out to finish with a strong position.”

M-Sport Stobart Ford Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
“It’s been a rally of mixed fortunes for the M-Sport Stobart Ford World Rally Team. It’s great to see Henning back with us after he missed Argentina and he’s made a fantastic comeback after a difficult start to the season. He thoroughly deserves both his top five result and his Spirit of the Rally Award due to his dedication and hard work over the past few weeks. Matthew has also had a strong weekend, he’s responded well to the difficult road conditions and even though he had some small problems with the misfire yesterday, he still managed to set some fast times and to finish with points for the team. Mads had an unlucky start on Friday but he had a good day yesterday which he can take a lot of positives from. I have no doubt that Finland will be a strong event for him so we look forward to seeing how he gets on when the WRC returns after the summer break. As for Novikov, there is no doubt that he is one of the fastest drivers in the WRC – he is capable of setting blisteringly quick times but he was unlucky this weekend after retiring on Friday and Saturday. With a little more experience, I am sure that he is capable of regularly chasing the WRC front-runners.”

Hirvonen claims podium finish for Ford in Acropolis Rally

Posted: June 23, 2011 11:17 AM

Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team drivers Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen finished third in the gruelling Acropolis Rally in Greece today after a thrilling final leg. They hunted down Sébastien Loeb in their Ford Fiesta RS World Rally Car during a tense battle for second, and ended just three seconds behind after the duel was only decided in the final live TV speed test.

Hirvonen was fastest overall during today's leg, based in the hills outside Loutraki, 90km west of Athens. Team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila were second quickest in their Fiesta RS WRC, en route to ninth place following a troubled weekend. The Ford Abu Dhabi drivers won four of today's five special stages in this seventh round of the FIA World Rally Championship.

The Acropolis is famed as the toughest round of the series. Rocky gravel mountain tracks and intense heat that reached 35ºC provided a tough challenge for both man and machine throughout the three-day event. Competitors tackled 18 speed tests covering 348.80km, with today's 65.58km of action the shortest leg of the weekend.

Hirvonen restarted fourth, with the leading quartet covered by just 22.4sec. The 30-year-old Finn climbed to third in the opening test and rapidly closed on Loeb. He entered the final Power Stage just 2.6sec behind the Frenchman, but was unable to clinch the runner-up place. Third fastest time in the last test earned him a bonus point for the drivers' championship, in which Hirvonen remains second.

"It was a great fight and I took big risks today to try to close the gaps, driving over every bank and rock," he said. "There's no way I would have survived all three days driving like that! It's the second consecutive rally where I've lost a final day battle by a handful of seconds and that's frustrating. It was a rough and extremely hot rally, but that's normal here, and the car worked perfectly all weekend.

"I knew it was going to be close and if there was one more 20km stage then I believe I could have taken second. I'm consistently scoring good points in the championship, but I need a win. The next round is my home event in Finland and nothing less than victory will be enough there," he added.

Latvala was delayed by transmission problems on Friday and turbo failure yesterday. However, the 26-year-old Finn maintained a strong pace and after restarting in 11th, he climbed back into the points to finish ninth. He won three stages to take his tally for the weekend to five.

"It was a hard weekend, but despite my technical troubles, I finished in the points and I'm relieved to be here," he explained. "I had a good pace and targeted the bonus points in the Power Stage, but it just wasn't our rally. The Greek Gods were not looking after me at all here.

"I'm looking forward to the summer break and then preparing for the next round on home ground in Finland. My chances of winning the drivers' championship have all but disappeared, so my priority in the second half of the season will be to concentrate on scoring points for Ford in the manufacturers' series," he added.

Ford Abu Dhabi team director Malcolm Wilson admitted he was disappointed not to extend Ford's winning record in the championship's toughest round. "We've won here seven times in the last 10 rallies but unfortunately we couldn't improve our great record. Both drivers performed well. Mikko drove a calculated rally but lost out by a small amount, while I'm disappointed for Jari-Matti because he was in a perfect position to challenge for victory," he said.

Ford of Europe motorsport chief Gerard Quinn said:
"It was a tough weekend and I'm disappointed that we didn't close out the first half of the season with a win. It's a shame that today's performance wasn't replicated on Friday and Saturday because that would have put us into a winning position. We will focus on the second part of the season and pursue victories more aggressively, because both championships are still open."

News from other Ford teams

M-Sport Stobart Ford's Henning Solberg / Ilka Minor finished fifth, one position ahead of team-mates Matthew Wilson / Scott Martin, who were unsettled by an engine misfire yesterday. FERM Power Tools drivers Dennis Kuipers / Frederic Miclotte finished 10th while the third M-Sport Stobart car of Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson recovered to claim 12th after retiring on the opening day when he went off the road. Rene Kuipers / Annemieke Hulzebos were 17th, while Lambros Athanassoulas / Nikolaos Zakheos were 19th after recovering from a first day retirement with broken suspension. Evgeny Novikov / Denis Giraudet finished 20th, despite retiring with broken suspension in the first leg and again yesterday with a broken alternator belt. Munchi's Ford duo Federico Villagra / José Diaz retired with two stages remaining after a return of the engine issues that forced them out yesterday.

Next round

The championship pauses for a mid-season break before restarting with Rally Finland on 28 - 30 July. The gravel event, one of the sport's classics, will be based in Jyväskylä.

GREEK RALLY OF ATTRITION PROVES DRAMA-FILLED FOR MUNCHI’S FORD

Posted: June 23, 2011 11:16 AM

The Munchi’s Ford World Rally Team battled back after a series of knockbacks on the treacherous roads in Greece but were finally forced to retire after suffering engine woes on route to the rally’s penultimate stage.

Due to business commitments, Munchi’s Ford regular co-driver Jorge Perez Companc was unable to attend the hottest round of the WRC so Jose Diaz joined Villagra in the team’s Ford Fiesta RS WRC.

Friday saw the Argentine pairing travel north of the service park in Loutraki to tackle a series of stages totalling 141.33 km close to the base of Mount Kallidromo. The first stage was drama-free but Villagra reported brake problems on the second stage. Due to the limited parts that are available at a remote service, the Munchi’s Ford team were unable to fully rectify the problem whilst working on the car at Kamena Vourla.

During the afternoon Villagra coped as best he could whilst driving with three brake callipers after a problem with the rear-left calliper. A series of heavy knocks on Stages 4 and 5 also meant that his Fiesta RS WRC was suffering from front suspension damage. The problems eventually meant that Villagra was forced to retire before the day’s closing 25.05 km stage.

Saturday saw more problems for Munchi’s Ford as the team suffered a time loss of four minutes on the notoriously rough Ghymno stage as a result of engine problems. The team changed the high pressure fuel pump and some of the electronics at Service C in an attempt to sort the problem.

However, more engine woes followed during the repeat afternoon pass and at Service D the team changed the engine loom and more of the electronics before the day’s closing night stage. It was at this stage that the team decided it would be best for Villagra to call it a day so that the crew could properly assess the issues before the final day of competition. On Saturday evening, the main wiring loom was changed.

Sunday morning’s opening stages fared better for Villagra who had a clear run but engine gremlins returned as the Argentine driver was forced to retire for the final time with only two stages remaining.

Villagra will now return to Argentina to compete in the fifth round of the Argentine Rally Championship – Rally de Catamarco – next weekend where he will look to secure his second consecutive win driving a specially developed Ford Fiesta.

Federico Villagra said:
“Greece is a rally I have done well at in the past but there is no doubt that it’s been a very difficult event for us this year. It’s just felt like one problem after another and unfortunately it seems that the underlying problem is something that the team simply don’t have enough time to sort during the short service breaks we have on rallies. I think the car needs to go back to M-Sport to be looked at properly. It’s such a shame not to make it to the end but this is the nature of rallying and I must not dwell on it too much. Now I have the fifth round of the ARC to look forward to so I will be focusing my attention on that and hope that I can finish there with a victory.”

Results

Posted: June 23, 2011 11:16 AM

POS DRIVER/CO-DRIVER CAR TIME
1 S Ogier/J Ingrassia Citroen DS3 WRC 4 hours 04 mins 44.3 sec
2 S Loeb/D Elena Citroen DS3 WRC + 10.5 sec
3 M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen Ford Fiesta RS WRC + 13.5 sec
4 P Solberg/C Patterson Citroen DS3 WRC + 38.8 sec
5 H Solberg/I Minor Ford Fiesta RS WRC + 5 mins 24.7 sec
6 M Wilson/S Martin Ford Fiesta RS WRC + 6 mins 54.7 sec
7 K Räikkönen/K Lindstrom Citroen DS3 WRC + 8 mins 29.4 sec
8 J Hanninen/M Markkula Skoda Fabia S2000 + 11 mins 34.7 sec
9 J Latvala/M Anttila Ford Fiesta RS WRC + 13 mins 08.8 sec
10 D Kuipers/F Miclotte Ford Fiesta RS WRC + 15 mins 10.1 sec

Video: Colin Clark's 2011 WRC Rally Acropolis Preview

Posted: June 16, 2011 8:00 AM

Video: Colin Clark (iRally) drives the Power Stage

Posted: June 15, 2011 8:49 PM

World Rally Radio LIVE from Acropolis Rally

Posted: June 15, 2011 8:17 PM

The Acropolis Rally, Round 7 of the 2011 FIA World Rally Championship, gets under way on Friday, and World Rally Radio will be broadcasting from Greece throughout the event, bringing live reports and interviews from the Stage Ends and Service Park.

The Acropolis, one of the most historic rallies in the world, is back in the WRC for the first time since 2009.

Becs Williams anchors the programming, and Colin Clark leads the Stage End reporting team.

You can listen to World Rally Radio on the free iRally App for the iPhone and iPad, available from the App Store. The station can also be heard through wrc.com.

On Air times:

    Friday 17 0830 local, 0630 IRL/UK
    Saturday 18 1030 local, 0830 IRL/UK
    Sunday 19 0830 local, 0630 IRL/UK

Citroen Racing Technologies has entered four Citroen DS3 WRCs in Greece

Posted: June 15, 2011 2:37 PM

This weekend, the seventh round of the World Rally Championship will take place in Greece. In addition to the two Citroën Total World Rally Team cars, Citroën Racing Technologies is supplying four DS3 WRCs available for Petter Solberg, Kimi Räikkönen, Peter van Merksteijn Jr and Peter van Merksteijn Sr, which they are running in their respective teams.

A week before the Acropolis Rally, Citroën Racing Technologies held a test session in the Marseille region to prepare for one of the most demanding events of the 2011 season. Kimi Räikkönen, Peter van Merksteijn Jr and Peter van Merksteijn Sr drove the Citroën DS3 WRC to get the right feel for the car and test different setups.
“We ran on roads similar to those that the crews will face in Greece,” commented Benoît Nogier, the Citroën Racing Technologies manager. “Like the ones that make up the route, we had a section that was a real car breaker and another that was quicker. Our drivers were happy with this base and the setups of the DS3 WRC.”

At the beginning of the week, it was Petter Solberg’s turn to shakedown his car in Greece.
”It was a good run to make sure everything was working properly,” Nogier went on.
“Petter has always been quick on this type of terrain. He can score a very good result here.”
“Kimi Räikkönen is having his first outing in this rally, but his performances in Turkey and Jordan on stages like these prove he has the right skills to adapt to difficult conditions where necessary. He has a good opportunity to show what he can do. Fifth or sixth place overall wouldn’t be a surprise. The aim of the two Van Merksteijn Motorsport drivers is to finish. The whole team’s worked very hard to get the DS3 WRCs ready to tackle the Greek roads.”

Friday, the first day of the event will already be a severe test with 141,33 timed kilometers, and a single remote service halt halfway through the leg. The next day, the crews will have to cover another 141,89 kilometers with a night stage. The rally will finish on Sunday at 15h30 after 18 stages. After scoring two podium finishes in the last two rallies, the Petter Solberg World Rally Team lies fourth in the Manufacturers’ World Championship. Ice 1 Racing is sixth at the moment.

DENNIS KUIPERS WANTS TO SHOW GOOD FORM IN GREECE

Posted: June 14, 2011 9:16 AM

Dennis Kuipers and Frederic Miclotte return to the FIA World Rally Championship after a short break. The FERM World Rally Team will start the second half of the season with an absolute classic: the Acropolis Rally. The Dutch-Belgian duo can hardly wait to race stages again.

"It was difficult waiting for so long", says Kuipers who pilots a Ford Fiesta RS WRC. After the WRC event in Sardinia a five week break followed without any rallying as Argentina was not on the calendar. "I trained a lot on my race-bike and my mountain bike so I’m in good shape.”

The difficult circumstances of the famous rally in Greece require excellent fitness.
"The Acropolis is a combination of tough stages and high temperatures. There are some long stages which require optimum concentration. "

A good example is the second stage of the rally. Special Stage Elatia with a length of 39.1 km, a real challenge. It’s one of the 18 stages in this year’s Acropolis Rally. After one year absence, the classic event is back on the WRC calendar.

"A lot will happen during this rally," predicts Dennis Kuipers. "The gravel roads are strewn with large stones, so the car is going to have a rough time. The key will be to adapt our speed to the circumstances. We want to hold on the good form after Sardinia and will plan day by day. "

Navigator Frederic Miclotte points out the importance of finding a good rhythm the first day.
"We want to be on pace as soon as possible. But we should not overdo, this is our first appearance in Greece. I expect a fair amount of retirements. Our goal is to be in top 10. That would be a great achievement. "

For Dennis Kuipers this Acropolis Rally is extra special because his father René Kuipers will be in an identical Ford Fiesta RS WRC for the first time. "So I have to watch out ", says Dennis with a smile.

FERM RALLY FACT

To safeguard the Ford Fiesta RS WRC against the harsh conditions, M-Sport designed a special protection package. The Acropolis is notorious for the large stones that lie littered the gravel roads. The FERM rally car comes with additional protection plates under the engine and the rear differential. A mesh cage protects the central axle, while the drive shafts and shock absorbers are fitted with steel tubes. Optimal protection is certainly required the first day of the rally, because only a remote service is planned.

TÄNAK AND PROKOP SET TO GO HEAD-TO-HEAD IN LAND OF THE GODS

Posted: June 10, 2011 2:41 PM

Next week’s Acropolis Rally of Greece will see Ford Fiesta S2000 drivers Ott Tänak and Martin Prokop go head-to-head as they fight to remain at the top of the S-WRC overall standings.

After a dramatic opening three rounds in the Super 2000 World Rally Championship which has seen the Ford Fiesta S2000 take victory at each event, Tänak and Prokop are now tied at the top of the championship standings with 40 points each. Fellow Fiesta S2000 drivers Bernardo Sousa holds fifth, Nasser Al-Attiyah lies in seventh and Frigyes Turán rounds off the top ten.

Prokop’s season got off to a flying start after he took an early championship lead with his victory in Mexico. Another podium spot shortly followed when the Czech driver finished third overall in Sardinia. Prokop, a former J-WRC champion, will be looking to use his past experience from competing in Greece to challenge for his third podium of the season.

Up-and-coming rally star Ott Tänak made an impressive debut in Mexico where he finished third in S-WRC and secured a credible 15 championship points. This was followed by a second podium in Sardinia when he took his maiden victory and was promoted to joint first place in the overall standings alongside Prokop. Tänak, a former Pirelli Star Driver, has demonstrated a remarkable show of pace so far this year and despite competing in Greece for the first time next week, he is looking to secure another podium finish.

Reigning Portuguese Rally Champion Bernardo Sousa claimed his maiden S-WRC victory in Jordan earlier this year but the young driver was forced to retire at last month’s Rally Italia Sardegna on the closing day. Sousa currently holds fifth in the S-WRC and is aiming for his second podium of the year in order to move further up the standings.

After two disappointing events in Mexico and Jordan, six-time MERC champion Nasser Al-Attiyah showed a return to form as he finished fourth at Rally Italia Sardegna last month. Al-Attiyah is the most experienced Fiesta S2000 driver to compete in Greece next week, having already contested the event in 2007, 2008 and 2009. The Qatari driver is hoping for a clear run at the fourth round of the S-WRC and will be looking to take advantage of his previous knowledge of the rocky Greek roads to help him challenge for victory.

Frigyes Turán will be the second Ford Fiesta S2000 driver to make his debut in Greece next week. The Hungarian driver first raised eyebrows in the rally world after his impressive pace at last year’s Rally Bulgaria which saw him finish eighth overall. However, his debut in the S-WRC did not go to plan when he had to retire on the penultimate stage in Jordan due to mechanical problems. Turán was dealt another dose of bad luck in Sardinia when his Fiesta S2000 suffered from exhaust problems on the opening day. In Greece, the driver will be aiming for a clear run and to post some solid championship points.

Ott Tänak said:
“I’ve been busy preparing for Greece mentally over the past week, we’ve not done any events in the Fiesta S2000 since Sardinia and we won’t be behind the wheel until Shakedown next Thursday. For sure, it’s not going to easy – it’ll be my first time in Greece but then again, it was my first time in Sardinia and I won there so maybe it will good for me next week too. I don’t think I’ve done an event like this before – I’ve heard that the stages will be very different from Sardinia and Mexico but we will try to have a good recce and see how it goes. We just want to try our best and to keep a good feeling in the car throughout.”

Martin Prokop said:
“Next week is not going to be easy, Greece is a very difficult event but I’m really looking forward to the challenge. The championship has now got very exciting and even though there’s still five events to go, I want to keep the pressure on as much as I can through this rally. I’ve been to Greece a couple of times before so that is a plus but so have Nasser and Bernardo so we will all have an advantage of knowing the roads. I’m just going to see how the first stages go and then adjust my pace to the circumstances – the roads are very rough and I am sure this year will be no different. I’d really like to challenge for a win but it’s a rally where anything can happen so I really couldn’t predict what will happen.”

Bernardo Sousa said:
“My year started really well with our first place in Jordan and I’d love to finish on the podium again next week. I’ve finished 16th in Greece twice before so it’s be good to beat that personal best at the same time but the main thing is to try and keep the concentration going throughout. It’s such a hot rally and I think that is one of the hardest things about Greece, you’re constantly sweating and the temperature inside the car can sometimes get too much! Saturday is going to be a really long day this year with the added night stage but it’s going to be a great challenge and I can’t wait to get out there.”

Nasser Al-Attiyah said:
“I think this will be my fourth time in Greece and it’s definitely one of my favourite events. I’ve got a test on Monday so that’ll be a good confidence boost as I really want to go flat out next week and finish on top of the podium. I was pretty disappointed with the first couple of S-WRC rounds in Mexico and Jordan as I was unlucky on both occasions but it was good to finish with some points in Sardinia. For the past week I’ve been in Italy shooting as I’m practicing for the next Olympic Games [In the 2004 Olympic Games, Nasser finished fourth in clay pigeon shooting].”

Frigyes Turán said:
“This will be our first time in Greece so we really don’t know what to expect. We have been trying to prepare physically and emotionally as we’ve been told how hot it can get in the car and this will pose a particular challenge for us. We’ve done a lot of training to get our mental and physical fitness up to its best in order so I hope that will have helped us. Since the previous rally in Sardinia, I’ve tried to be with my family as much as I could but in Greece our primary goal is to get championship points and to achieve a better ranking. We hope for a trouble-free event this time.”

HERCULEAN TASK AWAITS AS STOBART CREWS VOYAGE TO GREECE

Posted: June 10, 2011 1:21 PM

The M-Sport Stobart Ford World Rally Team will be looking to put in a monumental effort at next week’s Acropolis Rally of Greece to round off a string of top-five finishes for the team this year in the Ford Fiesta RS WRC.

With the 2011 FIA World Rally Championship season’s half-way point fast approaching, the Cumbrian-based squad is eager to continue its best season to date and is aiming for its seventh consecutive top-five result.

Greece holds the record as the WRC event with the most different winners (20), mainly due to its unforgiving roads which have been known to punish even the world’s most talented drivers.

This statistic will encourage M-Sport Stobart’s Mads Østberg and co-driver Jonas Andersson, who will contest next week’s Acropolis Rally of Greece with the aim of chasing the WRC front-runners. The 23-year-old driver has competed in Greece twice before and his previous experience of the stages will boost Østberg’s confidence as he aims to match the pace of the factory drivers.

Østberg is currently leading the Norwegian Rally Championship and finished runner-up at the fifth round of the NRC last weekend - the seat-time spent in the Ford Fiesta S2000 should help ensure the young Scandinavian is well prepared ahead of next week’s challenging WRC round.

With the heat set to reach in excess of 45 degrees inside the car Greece is undoubtedly one of the most physically challenging rallies in the WRC, but as two of the fittest individuals competing in the WRC Matthew Wilson and Scott Martin should be well-placed to cope with the sweltering heat.

The British duo are M-Sport Stobart’s second nominated points-scorers in Greece and Wilson will be looking to take advantage of his knowledge of the rock-strewn stages throughout the gruelling sun-beaten event. The 24-year-old’s previous best result is sixth from 2008’s event.

After choosing to skip the previous WRC round in Argentina to finalise the details of a new sponsor contract, Henning Solberg and co-driver Ilka Minor will return to the M-Sport Stobart team in Greece to pilot the Ford Fiesta RS WRC. Solberg has a strong record in the land of the Gods – the Norwegian has previously finished in the top-five on two occasions and is the most experienced of the M-Sport Stobart crew, having contested the event five times before.

Also returning to the M-Sport Stobart squad next week is Russia’s Evgeny Novikov, who will be partnered by the experienced Denis Giraudet in the co-driver’s seat. Novikov has shown he is capable of setting blisteringly-quick stage times, as was proved when he was running third after the first morning in Sardinia. However, a misheard pacenote subsequently caused the driver to roll his Fiesta RS WRC and the championship’s youngest ever stage winner was forced to retire from his second WRC event this year.

Mads Østberg said:
“If you want to be in with a chance to finish on the podium in Greece then I think you must push, but the roads are incredibly rough so there’s always the risk of damaging the car. I think we’ll see how it goes on the first stage and adjust our pace to the circumstances. This year we will repeat only one of the first six stages on the Friday so the cleaning effect is going to be a very important factor in this rally. Fortunately our start position is not as bad as some of the others so we’ll see how that goes. Since Argentina, I’ve competed in the NRC in the Ford Fiesta S2000 – even though the stages are very different to what we will experience in Greece, it’s always good preparation before a WRC event – especially as I am looking to push the top five some more than I did in South America.”

Matthew Wilson said:
“Greece usually ends up as one of the hottest rallies of the year but Scott and I are aware of this and should hopefully be prepared for it. I’ve been working hard on my fitness recently as it’s something that is really important for an event which is both physically and mentally demanding on the body. There is little doubt that Greece is one of the most difficult events in the calendar, it’ll probably prove to be the most demanding rally that the Ford Fiesta RS WRC has encountered but I am certain that the car and Michelin tyres will cope. We took some really big knocks in Argentina with rocks that had been dragged onto the road and we didn’t have any major issues so hopefully this will be the case next week too.”

Henning Solberg said:
“I’m delighted to be back in the WRC after missing Argentina. For sure, it’s been a difficult start to the season but my manager and I have been working hard with the new sponsor in order to get everything pulled together for a long-term plan. I’d say we’re nearly there with everything so of course that is good news. Hopefully now I can just concentrate on driving and finish with some good results. I’m focused now on Greece and I really want to put in a strong performance for the team during the second half of the season.”

Evgeny Novikov said:
“Greece is a relatively hard event in terms of physical training as it is so hot. The stages are not easy either – there are a lot of stones and in 2009 the roads were very slippery. I don't know how many new stages there will be this year for me, but the big plus is that Friday’s stages are not repeated and our start position is good - I hope it would be an advantage for us. In 2009, Greece was the most dramatic rally I’ve competed in. I enjoyed it a lot - I was third - but I had a problem with the driveshaft so I lost my third position. I hope I have no problems on this rally and finish with a top five result.”

Citroen is aiming for a sixth victory on the trot!

Posted: June 10, 2011 1:03 PM

In 2005 and 2009, Citroe?n Racing achieved the amazing feat of scoring six victories on the trot in the FIA World Rally Championship. In Greece, Se?bastien Loeb / Daniel Elena and Se?bastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia will be aiming to equal this record with the Citroe?n DS3 WRC. A win in Greece will help the Citroe?n World Rally Team to consolidate its position as leader in both the manufacturers’ and drivers’ championships.

The Acropolis Rally, one of the traditional events in the FIA World Rally Championship, is back on the calendar this season. In its current layout the Greek Rally is no longer the formidable challenge it was in the past. It still has the toughest car breaking sections of the whole season, and any driver who plays a percentage game has little hope of winning it.

“There’s absolutely no reason why we should change our approach,” insists Se?bastien Loeb who has just scored his sixty-fifth win in Argentina. “We’ve got a small lead in the championship. But thirteen points isn’t much of a cushion. In Greece, like everywhere else, we’re going to push hard right from the start as each second counts.”

Since the beginning of the season four of the six rallies have ended with under twelve seconds between first and second: “Even if we’ve scored five consecutive victories on gravel, the gaps are very small. You have to go pedal to the metal from the green light!”

The Acropolis is now more of a typical sprint event than in the past, but it’s still THE car breaking event of the season:
“The roads are very tough on both the cars and drivers. The heat also adds to the trying conditions. In certain portions, you have to avoid stones to spare the car and tyres. Sometimes you’re thrown around in the cockpit like a ping-pong ball!”

“You have to be very intelligent,” adds his team-mate Se?bastien Ogier, who is currently lying third in the drivers’ classification. “The cars, the tyres and the crews all suffer in Greece. You have to watch out for the mechanical components even if the DS3 WRC has been reliable and robust since the start of the season. Each rally is a new test.”

In 2009, on his only outing in Greece, Ogier put on a stunning performance finishing second in a world championship event in only his eighth drive in a WRC car: “It was my first podium at top level. It’s a great memory and I can’t wait to be back. We’re more motivated than ever to get out there and win and forget what happened at the end of Rally Argentina.”

The Acropolis Rally will kick off on Thursday 16th June with a starting ceremony at the foot of the Acropolis in Athens. The race proper will get under way on Friday morning. The route consists of eighteen stages on either side of the Corinth canal including a night one on Saturday evening. The Power Stage, shown live on TV, will be broadcast on Sunday 19th June at 14h11 (GMT +3).

Three questions to Olivier Quesnel

Greece will mark the halfway stage of the season. How would you sum up the rallies so far?
“Overall, it’s been very positive. Since the start of the year, we’ve raced in six rallies and five have ended in a Citroe?n victory! The work done by the whole team from the first drawings of the Citroe?n DS3 WRC up till today have borne fruit. Loeb has opened up a small gap in the drivers’ classification, and Citroe?n leads the manufacturers’ championship. It would be difficult to ask for more.”

Have Se?bastien Loeb and Se?bastien Ogier fulfilled the hopes you’ve placed in them ?
“Loeb is Loeb. He never gives anything away, as the most recent rallies have proved. He is as motivated as ever and is still the world champion. Little by little he’s opened up a small lead in the drivers’ classification and there are still three asphalt rallies to run. Se?bastien Ogier had a difficult end to Rally Argentina but that mustn’t overshadow what he achieved beforehand. During the Argentinean event he pushed his rivals into making mistakes, and took first place even though he didn’t know the stages on the second day. Despite his incident he bagged the points for third place. His victories in Portugal and in Jordan, where he led from start to finish, amply prove that he deserves all our confidence and our backing.”

In the past few years, Citroe?n hasn’t been all that successful in Greece. Is it a special challenge for the team ?
“It’s sure that the Acropolis isn’t an event in which Citroe?n has scored that many wins, but it’s not an impenetrable bastion! We won in 2005 and 2008 with Se?bastien Loeb and Daniel Elena, and we have the same ambitions this year. Loeb, obviously, but also Ogier, who finished second on his only outing in 2009, are both serious victory contenders. We’re sure they have what it takes to win with the Citroe?n DS3 WRC! Our testing to prepare for this very specific event went off well, so it’s looking pretty good overall.”

Ford looks to turn up the heat as WRC turns tough in Greece

Posted: June 10, 2011 11:59 AM

Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team faces the toughest round of the FIA World Rally Championship in Greece next week intent on extending its excellent record in one of the series' classic fixtures. Intense heat and rocky mountain tracks make the Acropolis Rally (16 - 19 June) a gruelling test of man and machine, but Ford has won there seven times in the last 10 encounters.

The rally returns to the series after a year's absence and this seventh round marks the halfway point of the 2011 season. Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen lie second in the drivers' standings, while the Finns and team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila have propelled the Ford Abu Dhabi squad into second in the manufacturers' points with the Fiesta RS World Rally Car.

The challenges posed by the Acropolis are physical and mechanical. Air temperatures in the gravel speed tests near the rally base of Loutraki, 90km west of Athens, are likely to exceed 30ºC, with cockpit temperatures well above that. Driver fitness is crucial, especially in the longer tests, and regular fluid intake is vital to stave off dehydration to ensure the crew operates at peak performance.

Mechanically, success in Greece demands a blend of strength, reliability and speed. The heat that affects human performance also places high demands on engines and gearboxes, with little cooling from the flow of air in the relatively slow winding, climbing mountain special stages.

The gravel roads in the Acropolis have a fearsome reputation. While the tracks are less rough than they were, cars must still withstand severe punishment from rocks which litter the surface, as well as unyielding bedrock which forms the basis of the region's loose surface roads. The combination of heat and abrasive stages will also demand strong durability from Michelin's tyres.

Hirvonen knows what it takes to win the Acropolis, having stood on the top step of the podium when the rally was last held in 2009. Thirty-year-old Hirvonen has seven starts to his name and said: "Years ago all the stages were rough and abrasive. Today there are some smooth sections but there are many rocks – and it's still hot!" he said.

"If you're lucky you can survive for three days driving flat out from start to finish. But there are plenty of places where you must be careful and it pays to be smart. It's vital to think about how to drive here, as well as doing the actual driving. Ford has always built strong, reliable rally cars and after testing in Greece last month, I know the Fiesta RS WRC lives up to that.

"The heat is a big challenge. It's essential to drink a lot before the rally to be properly prepared. It also helps to be in good physical shape, although that's a requirement for every rally. I plan to do some exercise when I arrive in Greece to help acclimatise to the temperatures there," he added.

Latvala, fourth in the drivers' championship, claimed his best Acropolis result in six starts in 2009 when he finished third. The 26-year-old Finn also acknowledges how tough the rally is.

"Greece is the hardest round of the season," he admitted. "There were many retirements in 2009 due to the rough conditions. There are sections in which the roads are good and can be driven flat out. But there are also sections, especially in the second leg, where it will be essential to ease the pace to protect the car and tyres because of the rocks. The fastest car and driver might not win – it could be the one that is the strongest and cleverest.

"We tested in Greece last month and the Fiesta felt strong on the rocky tracks. We also tested in darkness to prepare thoroughly for the night stage during Saturday's second leg. That test could be decisive. If there is no breeze late in the evening then dust could be a problem for all except the first car in the running order. It could generate a big difference in times," he added.

Team News

* Michelin's Latitude Cross gravel tyre will be used by the Ford Abu Dhabi drivers and will be available in hard compound only. Teams are not allowed to hand-carve additional cuts into the tyres and each car can carry two spare wheels.

* Eight other Fiesta RS WRCs are entered. Matthew Wilson / Scott Martin and Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson are nominated by the M-Sport Stobart Ford team, which has also entered Henning Solberg / Ilka Minor and Evgeny Novikov / Denis Giraudet. Dennis Kuipers / Frederic Miclotte and Rene Kuipers / Annemieke Hulzebos are entered by the FERM Power Tools World Rally Team while Munchi's Ford World Rally Team will be represented by Federico Villagra / José Diaz. Competing on their home event will be the Team Greece pairing of Lambros Athanassoulas / Nikolaos Zakheos.

* The Acropolis is the fourth round of the S-WRC support category. Five Ford Fiesta S2000 cars are entered, including Martin Prokop / Jan Tomanek and Ott Tanak / Kuldar Sikk, who are level on points at the head of the championship.

* Following the Acropolis Rally, the team will step up its preparations for the asphalt rallies during the second half of the season. A four-day test will be held on sealed-surface roads in France on 27 - 30 June, with Latvala and Hirvonen behind the wheel for two days each.

Rally Route

Organisers have retained much of the 2009 format, when the rally base moved from Athens to Loutraki, while also introducing several new aspects. Thursday's start ceremony returns to the rally's spiritual home, at the foot of the spectacular Acropolis in central Athens. Friday's opening leg heads north around the Gulf of Corinth to tackle classic stages on the flanks of Mt Kallidromo that have not been used since 2005. There will be a remote service area in Kamena Vourla. Saturday's route journeys west across the Corinth Canal for stages in the Peloponnese peninsula and the final test will take place in darkness. The final leg on Sunday is based east of Loutraki and includes the final Power Stage, which offers bonus points to the fastest three drivers. Competitors tackle 18 stages, covering 348.80km in a route of 1217.82km.

VILLAGRA’S BATTLE WITH RÄIKKÖNEN HEATS UP AS WRC MOVES TO GREECE

Posted: June 10, 2011 11:58 AM

Munchi’s Ford World Rally Team driver Federico Villagra is aiming to increase his lead over his closest rival in the WRC Drivers’ Standings, Kimi Räikkönen, at next week’s Acropolis Rally of Greece.

At the most recent FIA World Rally Championship round in his home country Argentina, Villagra moved ahead of the 2007 Formula One Champion in the standings whilst simultaneously posting his best result of the year so far in Ford’s Fiesta RS WRC.

The nine-time Argentine Rally Champion is currently two points ahead of Räikkönen, and Munchi’s Ford six ahead of the Finn’s Team Ice 1 Racing in the Manufacturer’s Standings. With Villagra due to skip upcoming events Rally Finland and Rallye Deutschland, a strong finish next week is vital to ensure the experienced South American retains his place within the top eight.

Regular co-driver Jorge Pérez Companc is unable to attend the event in Greece due to business commitments, so Villagra will be joined in the co-driver’s seat by José Diaz.
Villagra and Diaz have already enjoyed success in Greece in the past – in 2009 the duo posted the best ever result for Munchi’s Ford with a fourth place finish. It will also be the fourth time that Villagra has contested what is usually one of the hottest, gruelling and most physically challenging events in the WRC calendar, so his past experience should help the pair prepare for the tricky event.
This year’s Acropolis Rally of Greece will begin with a ceremonial start under the Rock of the Acropolis on Thursday evening in Athens. Friday’s stages will see the Munchi’s Ford crew travel north where they will tackle a set of stages close to Mount Kallidromon. There will also be a remote service at Kamena Vourla.

Saturday’s stages remain largely unaltered from 2009 but there will be a new 17.71 km night stage. Two stages, close to the rally base in Loutraki will be run twice on Sunday while the first 4 km Aghii Theodori stage will be host to the event’s Power Stage.

Greece will be Villagra’s last WRC event until Rally Australia in September. Over the summer break the Munchi’s Ford driver will be contesting events in his home championship, including Rally de Catamarca which runs from 24 – 26 June.

Federico Villagra said:
“Greece is one of the most challenging rallies in the WRC, but it’s been an event that has gone well for me in the past so hopefully we should get a good result next week. I found a good feeling in the car in Argentina – we made a lot of small changes over the first couple of days so I’d like to find the right set-up for this event no problem. The heat is always a difficult factor at this rally, it definitely makes concentration difficult and you need to remember to drink a lot of water as you sweat so much in the car. Many of the stages in Greece have loose gravel and bedrock so finding a good traction is another difficulty we will have to try and manage next week. In some places the speed of the stages changes a lot and it’s hard to find a nice flow and to concentrate, but I’d really like to find a comfortable pace from the beginning and I really hope to get another top-five finish there again.”

Seeded Entry List

Posted: June 2, 2011 3:57 PM

Rally Guide / Event Website / Details

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