30 May 08
A puncture cost Jari-Matti Latvala the lead of the Acropolis Rally on the first of Friday afternoon’s stages.
Latvala finished the repeated 11km Schimatari test with a left-hand front puncture on his Ford Focus RS WRC, but the Finn had no idea why.
“It’s very strange; I just don’t understand,” said Latvala. “You can ask my co-driver - we honestly didn’t hit anything and suddenly we had a puncture. I don’t understand it because we didn’t cut anywhere - and there were no rocks on that stage. Perhaps the tyre came off the rim in one of the ruts. I don’t know. I was surprised to see I lost only 11 seconds, so I’m quite happy about that.”
Sebastien Loeb was the fastest driver through SS4 and moved into the overall rally lead. His time of 10min 26.7sec was 14 seconds quicker than his first pass on SS1. “That was okay, I’ll try to keep pushing,” he said. “This time was quicker and the feeling is good. I think Mikko is still cleaning, and the drivers behind me will have more grip, but we’ll see.”
Loeb’s team-mate Dani Sordo set the second fastest time but arrived at the stage end anxious about a potential engine problem. “The engine got very hot in the middle of the stage,” explained Sordo. “The temperature warning was flashing but now it seems okay.”
The first driver to tackle the stage, Mikko Hirvonen, set the third fastest time, but felt he was still off the pace. “From the split times it looks like we’re getting our arses kicked,” said Hirvonen. “But I’m doing my best. I’m not thinking about the road cleaning. I’m just trying to go flat out.”
Subaru World Rally Team driver Chris Atkinson completed SS4 almost six seconds slower than his team-mate Petter Solberg and reported a concern with his Impreza WRC 2008. “There’s something flashing up on the dash screen, and we didn’t have much power in there, but we’ll have to see,” he said.