Stage data: SS18, Aghii Theodori 1 (19.42 kilometres)
By M-Sport Ford Rally Team co-driver Denis Giraudet: “Sunday looks like an easy day in comparison to Friday and Saturday and we start with Aghii Theodori. I have to say I don’t like the stages so much in this area around Loutraki because they don’t use natural roads. But we have to deal with them and it’s good we use them because they are convenient for the people living in Loutraki. The first 10 kilometres is on a road of good quality but then you have a lot of surface changes and a variety of turns. It’s full of successive uphill and downhill sections.”
How the action unfolded:
Petter Solberg’s bid to win the Acropolis Rally and hand Ford its 14th triumph on the event, round six of the FIA World Rally Championship powered by Nokia, is over after he crashed on Sunday’s opening test.
Solberg started the 19.42-kilometre stage trailing overall leader Sebastien Loeb by 10.2s. But his challenge ended when he tore the left-rear wheel off his Fiesta RS WRC striking a tree just before the 13-kilometre mark. Both Solberg and co-driver Chris Patterson were uninjured but they will go no further.
Loeb now leads Citroen team-mate Mikko Hirvonen by almost two minutes with Jari-Matti Latvala, who was fastest on the test, up to third in his Fiesta. There are four stages remaining until the finish in Loutraki.
“Petter and me were very close but he needed to find extra speed to make up the 10 seconds,” said Loeb. “It was difficult to find the rhythm after that and difficult to know how to drive. At the moment we have done the perfect rally.”
Mads Ostberg reported a problem with the rear brakes on his Adapta Fiesta. The Norwegian also suffered a half spin. Thierry Neuville said the bottom of his Citroen took a pounding on the rough final section of the stage, which formed the route for Thursday’s Qualifying Stage.
Andreas Mikkelsen completed the stage with a broken left-rear wheel following an impact as a result of confusion over a pace note. The Volkswagen Motorsport driver has been forced to retire as a result. “There is too much damage to the left rear, there is nothing we can do,” said the Norwegian. “It’s a big shame but we’ve had a good pace compared to my team-mate Sebastien Ogier.”
Evgeny Novikov restarted under Rally 2 rules this morning with a replacement water pump after damage to a radiator led to the engine temperature rising and resulted in the original component breaking. However, the Russian failed to complete the stage, the legacy of the damage inflicted on his M-Sport Fiesta yesterday.
Brazil World Rally Team’s Daniel Oliveira and Nasser Al-Attiyah of the Qatar World Rally Team have stopped in the stage with Al-Attiyah reported to have rolled his Citroen, which has sustained radiator damage.