30 May 08
Four-time World Rally Champion co-driver Daniel Elena has co-driven for Sebastien Loeb since 1999.
Elena and Loeb last won the Acropolis Rally in 2005 and this year - on their eighth attempt - they’re favourites to it again. And as the drivers head our to tackle Saturday's six stages, nobody is better qualified to offer an expert co-drivers opinion than rally leader Elena.
Elena spoke to wrc.com after the pre-event reconnaissance to explain the stages of this year’s rally. Here’s what he said about Saturday’s stages:
Day two is the longest of the rally and is extremely difficult. The roads are rougher than those of day one, and we also have to tackle the longest stage of the rally - Aghii Theodori. Last year this one was covered in rocks and caused lots of punctures and mechanical problems. It proved so difficult that it’s been split basically into two pieces for 2008. But the first part remains the longest of the whole rally. The big unknown on Saturday is the new Pirelli tyres. We just don’t know how they will cope here because it’s the first time we’ll have used them in such hard conditions. Today’s roads are totally different to the ones in Mexico, Sardinia or Jordan. Last year even with the mousse we had lots of punctures and tyres exploding because of the high temperature - so it’s going to be a good test!”
SS8/SS11 Aghii Theodori 32.16km
The most difficult stage of the day and most likely the roughest of the whole rally. The stage features a bit of everything: fast, slow, narrow, uphill, downhill - you name it. Because of this it’s good and interesting to drive, but it’s very hard to get into any sort of rhythm. You have to keep alert all the time and in some places you have to slow right down if you’re to avoid damaging a tyre or the suspension. The stage starts very fast, then drops downhill on a section which is also very twisty. It’s not easy to judge braking here and it’s extremely narrow so you have to have good precision. Lots of problems on this stage last year were caused by rocks that were uncovered, or flicked onto the road, by the cars ahead. There’s not much you can do about these because they won’t be in your pace notes, and by the time you’ve seen them it’s probably too late. The stage also features a long uphill section which is very, very rough and hard on the tyres. We’ll have to see on the first pass how the tyres hold up. This will be crucial on the repeat pass.
SS9/SS12 Pissia 16.60km
This is the end section of last year’s full length Aghii Theodori. There are one or two rough sections but it’s generally faster and easier than the first part. The road surface is just bedrock, so it’s very aggressive on the tyres. The first three kilometers are run in a forest, but after that it switches to open countryside.
SS10/SS13 Aghia Triada 10.80km
The last test of the morning and afternoon loop is a medium fast stage but it’s not very rough - it’s okay. There is just one downhill section which is difficult because it’s fast and bumpy. It has quite a loose road surface, and of Saturday’s stages this is the one which will clean the most.