Here at wrc.com we have the lowdown on the roads, courtesy of WRC television’s location director, Steve Turvey, who has driven the entire route to seek out the best camera positions.
Turvey is a former co-driver and was an integral part of Richard Burns’ championship-winning team in 2001 as one half of the Briton’s gravel crew.
Wrc.com asked him for his thoughts on this year’s conditions and what we should look out for over the three days of competition.
Q. Steve, How are the stages looking?
ST: “The organisers have done a great job of grading the roads, but the ground here tends to be soft, so they do cut up. It doesn’t bake hard like you might expect. It’s sand on top of rock in many places.”
Q: The rally kicks off on Friday evening with the 47km Kineta-Pissia followed by a 26km stage run in darkness. What can the drivers expect?
ST: "It’s going to be a rough start because the surface for the first two stages is so soft. Even after the recce the road was damaged and there were lots of rocks everywhere [pictured]. Friday’s second stage [Kineta] is essentially a repeat of the opening 26km of SS1, and I think it will be in a real mess by the time the cars get there. Expect lots of big stones uncovered, ruts forming and rocks littered off the racing line.
“If there is little or no wind on the night stage, I expect hanging dust will cause visibility problems. The cars will start this one at four-minute intervals – up from the normal two minutes – but this might not be enough. The problem with the dust is that it accumulates, getting worse and worse with each passing car.”
Q: So, first on the road is the best place to be to avoid the dust?
“Yes, but it’s also the worst place to be for grip on the loose gravel. Road position is going to be very interesting here. If it’s not windy, do you risk going first on the road for the first stage and get the least dust on the second, or do you drop back a bit and get the cleaner road but risk the dust in the darkness? That’s going to make qualifying interesting. In hanging dust even one place in the start order will make a big difference.”
Q. Saturday’s four stages are based in a different area, west of Loutraki. How do they differ to Friday’s?
“They are more mountainous, with lots of hairpin corners, but they are also extremely quick. The surface is generally harder that Friday’s and features plenty of bedrock and loose stones. Most of the stages have a smooth part and a rough part. The rough part tends to be uphill when the cars are scrabbling for grip. Dust shouldn’t be a problem because it tends to be windy in the mountains. The altitude - up to 1,600 metres on SS6 and SS10 - should bring some cooler temperatures too.”
Q. Is there one stage on Saturday that stands out?
ST: “Ziria is the one to watch. It’s used twice as SS6 and SS10 and is so fast the cars are going to leave our camera helicopter behind. It starts off with a climb up a mountain, levels off and then goes flat out. It’s not the roughest stage, although there are still lots of loose stones about. Organisers have put in a couple of man-made chicanes in an effort to slow things down a bit.”
Q: And how about Sunday’s stages?
ST: “More soft roads and rutted conditions. Especially on the Loutraki stage, which is run twice as SS12 and the event closing Power Stage. This road uses sections of the Kineta-Pissia test from Friday, so expect these sections to be very rutted.”
Q. How are the tyres going to cope?
ST: "The amount of sharp bedrock and flinty stones mean that punctures will inevitably be an issue. One of the biggest problems is the ruts which can squeeze sharp stones onto the tyre wall. Punctures aside, tyre wear should be okay but most crews will plan to fit two fresh tyres after the Ghymno test on Saturday.”
[Click here to watch our exclusive video feature about tyres and the Acropolis Rally.]