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GP Week : Issue 154
RALLY >>> PREVIEW Summertime in Greece! The world championship now moves to the warm tracks of the far south-east of Europe for round 6, the Acropolis Rally (25-27 May), the last of the traditionally ‘rough gravel’ events in the annual calendar. Outwardly similar to the format of the route last year, there are several fundamental changes. After the inconclusive experience of running a stage at night on dry gravel tracks, this year the stages will again all be run in daylight. Other changes on the Loutraki-based event this year are that the start will be held in Athens outside the Zappion, rather than within view of the Parthenon; and for the first time there will be a special stage also on the Thursday evening, after the ceremonial start in Athens and before the cars arrive at Loutraki. The long (700km!) Friday route takes competitors to remote service halts at Itea on the opposite side of the Gulf of Corinth from Loutraki, instead of Kamena Vourla. The second day on the event uses a loop of stages on the other side of the Corinth Canal, on the Peloponnese peninsula, and the final day is run in the mountains close to Loutraki. In addition to the mandatory extended stage length on all events this year (411km in Greece against 348 in 2011) the FIA have imposed a surreptitious new ‘endurance’ factor on the event. This time it takes the form of the long (170km of stages!) Friday route with no full service, with only two short remote service halts at Itea. This day stage total distance will then go up to 210km in on the less-rough Rally New Zealand with only one remote service. The Thursday evening stage is 25km long, less that 10% of the total stage distance, so this also means that the pre-event running order selection process will apply to 195km of stages, before the standard automatic reverse order rules apply on the Saturday and Sunday stages. There will be two entirely new stages, one stage (done twice) logistically placed to break up the other wise long Day 1 road section between Thiva and Itea, the other being added to the Peloponnese loop on Day 2. The event this year is run a week earlier than last year, closer to the winter period when storms cause a lot of damage – and with less time for repairs to the roads to be carried out. Coupled with the extended distance between servicing, it seems that this could be an event won more by keeping out of trouble than by speed. Main story for Ford is the return of Jari Matt Latvala after his skiing injury before Argentina, welcome news for the team. Jari has driven four rallies for Ford this year, led on each occasion and won the second event while his teammate Petter Solberg led on the fifth event. Jari-Matti completed 440km during his two-day test, reporting no pain from his injury. He wore protection padding on his shoulder which, he said, worked perfectly. While the entry for Henning Solberg is still not confirmed, the Ukraine driver Oleksii Tamrasov has a brand new Fiesta WRC, while for this event Cypriot businessman Spyros Pavlides is renting a car from M-Sport. Citroen have their usual entries for the Total and the Junior team, while there will be three Minis – the two Portugal team cars, plus the Qatari driverAbdulaziz Alkuwari has upgraded his 1.6 turbo S2000 into WRC specification for the occasion. Of the 12 registered PCWRC drivers, 10 are due to appear in Greece, headed by the series leader Benito Guerra, the only absentees being Michal Kosciuuszko and Ramona Karlsson. No wildcard entries have been made. This will be second event in the Rally Class series for four Subaru Impreza drivers, which Ricardo Trivino contests in addition to being a PCWRC registered driver. Benito Guerra has entered two events, won both times and is strongly fancied ahead of Michal Kosciuszko with a first, a third and a retirement, and Nicolas Fuchs with two second places. On account of the effect of the anticipate roughness of the event, the Academy drivers will have a revised route, in which they will tackle each stage only on the first, not also the second pass. They will therefore only have one remote service halt at Itea. and their event will finish after their first passage through the Peleponnese stages on the Saturday. There is another category of competition, the Greek national class, which will tackle the first loop of the Saturday stages, then all the Sunday loop. The number of Academy entries has risen from 10 to 11, with the return of South African driver Ashley Haigh-Smith. This year there are only seven Greek drivers entered on the international Acropolis Rally, an evitable consequence of the economical crisis which has especially hit rally sport, but not the popular national Hillclimbs or Rallysprints to the same extent. The top seeded Greek driver on the rally is Lambros Kyrkos (Class 3 Mitsubishi Evo IX) , the younger brother of multi national champion Ford driving Leonidas Kyrkos, while a fascinating competitor is 61 year old Haris Kaltsounis, proprietor of the county’s Opel importers, who drives a ten year old Corsa Super 1600 car. Missing this year is the popular Lambros Athanassoulas, a casualty of the national financial situation Jari-Matti returns. He missed out on a podium last year, but with his collar-bone injury healed will be hoping to get to the finish in one piece ... 32 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: