30 May 08
Sebastien Loeb increased his lead of the Acropolis Rally by four seconds on SS5, the repeat of the longest stage of the day.
At the end of the 23km test, and with 22 competitive kilometers remaining on day one, Loeb’s lead stood at 7.2 seconds.
Behind him in second overall was his team-mate Dani-Sordo who was also his closest challenger through the stage. Ex rally leader Jari-Matti Latvala was third fastest, to hold third overall, 11.1 seconds adrift of Loeb’s total time.
At the stage end Loeb said he had almost gone too far in his efforts to pull ahead of Latvala: “I tried really hard; maybe a bit too hard. I was on the limit and one or two times I nearly went off. I need to try and keep Latvala behind and keep the lead, so it’s flat out," he said.
Dani Sordo said he was happy with his time and relieved that the engine temperature issue he noticed on the previous stage had not returned.
Jari-Matti Latvala was third quickest, but said he had no answer to Loeb’s pace. “I tried but I don’t know how he’s going that fast,” said Latvala. “My car was understeering; it seems to be worse when the tyres are getting hotter.”
Mikko Hirvonen was 10 seconds slower than his team-mate and reported a similar problem with his identical Ford Focus. “I can’t make the car go straight, I’m losing time no matter what I do,” said a dejected Hirvonen at the stage end. “The car feels good, but in the rough it’s understeering and we’re sliding a lot coming out of the corners. It’s definitely not the fastest way to go.”
Chris Atkinson set the fifth fastest time and wasn’t troubled by the engine issue he experienced on the previous test. “It felt better in the middle, so we pushed a little bit, took some risks and we’ve done okay,” he said.