Stage data: SS11, Ghymno 1 (17.61 kilometres)
By M-Sport Ford Rally Team co-driver Denis Giraudet: “This is the toughest stage of the rally. The first part is uphill with a lot of hairpins, then you have a very fast part in the middle and then you go down the hill and you have a feeling you are in a riverbed with rocks on the side. You are going very fast and it’s never ending for about 12 kilometres. The second time around I don’t know how we’re going to get through because it’s a really big challenge. There are a lot of loose stones and if one is moved onto the line, even if you are cautious, you cannot go around because the road is so narrow.”
How the action unfolded:
Jari-Matti Latvala has won what has been described by one leading co-driver as the “toughest stage” of the Acropolis Rally, the sixth round of the FIA World Rally Championship powered by Nokia.
Latvala, in a Ford Fiesta RS WRC, was 2.5s faster than Sebastien Loeb to close to within 5.1s of the eight-time world champion in the thrilling battle for victory in Greece.
“It was very, very rough and I had to back off after going really fast at the beginning,” Latvala told WRC Live’s stage-end reporter George Donaldson. “It’s a big risk for the car this stage. You can’t go maximum all the time because the car won’t take it as it’s so bad in some places.”
Loeb, who was fourth fastest in his Citroen DS3 WRC, said: “It was very, very tricky so I took it really easy in the downhill with no risk. We will have to push harder on the next one.”
Mikko Hirvonen was second fastest with Petter Solberg setting the third best time in his Ford. Russian Evgeny Novikov was fifth quickest with Mads Ostberg recording the sixth fastest time to move ahead of Nasser Al-Attiyah into seventh overall.
Ostberg said: “I’m happy to be through the stage because it was so, so rough and it’s not possible to drive like you are on a rally. You can cross stones the size of a football but when they are the size of a car you try to avoid them.”
Thierry Neuville completed the stage with a large cut in his Citroen’s left-rear tyre and reported a possible problem with a suspension damper. Martin Prokop reported striking a large stone on the final corner on the stage in his Czech Ford National Team Fiesta.
Andreas Mikkelsen went quicker than Volkswagen Motorsport team-mate Sebastien Ogier but said his decision to carry two spare soft compound tyres in the belief it might rain could count against him during the closing two stages of the morning loop.