30 May 08
Sitting alongside every great rally driver is a great co-driver. And with four consecutive world titles to his name they don’t currently come any greater than Daniel Elena, co-driver to Sebastien Loeb since 1999.
Elena and Loeb last won the Acropolis Rally in 2005 and this year - on their eighth attempt - they’re one of the pre-event favourites once again. Elena spoke to wrc.com after the pre-event reconnaissance to explain the stages of this year’s rally. Here’s his verdict on Friday’s stages:
In general Friday’s stages are not the roughest of the event. The biggest challenge of the first two (SS1/SS4 and SS4/SS5) is the slippery road surface. The final test of the morning and the afternoon loop (SS3/SS6) is the only one that features proper ‘rough’ conditions. Road position on day one won’t make too much of a difference to the first cars through. There’s so much sand around that the first five cars will probably face pretty much the same conditions. Friday’s stages looked okay on the recce, but as they’re slow, there won’t be a lot of airflow though the cockpit. It’s going to be hot and uncomfortable for us out there.
SS1/SS4 Schimateri 11.57km
Stage one is very twisty, slippery and starts with a big jump. The surface is sandy and relatively smooth which means it’s not too hard on the tyres but it’s not easy to drive because it’s so narrow. It’s a very complicated and technical piece of road. We’ll be looking for a lot of traction with the car here because there are many tightening corners. It’s not one of the fastest of the Greek stages and I guess our average speed will be around 65-70kph.
SS2/SS5 Thiva 23.76km
The longest of the day, Thiva starts off sandy but then turns to a harder base as it winds in and out of a forest. It has a similar character to the first and there are a lot of junctions and corners. Like SS1 though it’s not very rough. There are a few fast places but on the whole it’s not hard on tyres. It’s very, very slippery and certainly not easy. One of the hardest things is the tall grass which lines the road side. It can be hard to see if there are rocks or stones hidden there - especially on corner apexes. Most of the WRC crews know this and the Schimateri stage pretty well, we’ve done them the last three years, so expect most of the times to be pretty close. There’s one spectator zone which we pass twice - so that’s a good place to head to if you want to watch the cars.
SS3/SS6 Psatha 17.42km
Psatha was Stage 10 in 2006, which for Seb and is memorable because it was here that we broke a wheel and came back to service on just two. It’s very rough and very fast at the start then gets twistier towards the end. It’s much harder on tyres and suspension than the other two and definitely the most difficult of the day.
SSS7 Superspecial Tatoi 4.60km
The day ends with a short Superspecial close to the service area in Tatoi. It’s a strange stage which runs on grass - at least it will until the grass wears through. I imagine there will be some different grip for the cars running on dirt. There’s a small jump, but nothing too tricky.