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GP Week : Issue 121
Once again the young Norwegian Mads Ostberg settled into sixth place, the top-placed driver behind the sports' big five, but suddenly he went off the road. His team later discovered it was caused by a broken subframe. Henning Solberg, now enjoying a happy reversal of his poor form earlier in the season, was chasing the leaders and found himself up to fifth. The first day was marked by the coincidental accidents of both van Merksteijn team cars, Peter junior and then Peter Senior, while the Citroen of Kimi Raikkonen was struggling until it was discovered the car had a broken differential. Assoon as Day 2 started, Latvala unbelievably had turbocharger trouble and dropped nearly another quarter hour before the car could be repaired. Running first car was bad news this time for Petter Solberg who, step-by-step, saw his cherished lead evaporate and the two works Citroen Total cars go past. Citroen cars were 1-2-3 with Hirvonen fourth, with Latvala down at 15th place. The Mini of Armindo Araujo was withdrawn on account of various problems including power steering trouble after lying 11th overall. Daniel Oliveira's Mini continued, after also having steering trouble the day before. For the second day running, Evgeniy Novikov had to withdraw, firstly with a broken wishbone, an alternator belt failure, while in the heat of the day many different drivers reported fuel or sensor problems. After a busy day in the mountains there was a brief rest before the crews headed out for the night stage. Conditions were dry which meant there would be more road cleaning and dust in the air but there was also some wind which meant that the dust would not normally hang in the air. First-running car Solberg lost the chance to capitalise on the dust factor by suffering pacenote troubles and in the end it was eighth-running Latvala who made best time, the first orthodox dry gravel night-time stage in a quarter century of WRC history. By all accounts the little bit of dust, coupled with the three-minute gaps between drivers, averted a disaster. Just when it seemed that this would be a walkover for Citroen, Ford noticed that Hirvonen had quietly been rocketing along on the final day and still had an outside chance to pass Solberg into third place. In the end, he achieved a podium place with four stages still to go, and with only the Power Stage to run he found himself 2.6 second behind Loeb in third. Ogier meanwhile was enjoying every privilege his running order offered and cementing himself in the lead. The Power Stage at the end of the event said it all: Ogier fractionally faster than Loeb with Hirvonen third. The newly named Rally of Gods evidently favoured Citroen, but considering that Citroen call their cars ‘DS’ - said like ‘Goddess’, was the domination of the cars with the double chevron any great surprise? For Ford in Greece, where the company's rally cars have many happy memories in the past, was this year a horror story. They have now only scored one victory in the last 12 world championship rallies and Citroen have won all the rest which, for a championship, is about as one-sided as you would want to see.