|Acropolis Rally of Greece Preview
May 25, 2007
source: Subaru World Rally Team
WRC is ready to rock!
|Every round of the World Rally Championship presents a tough challenge, but next weekend’s Acropolis Rally of Greece is one of the most difficult of them all. A combination of searing heat, boulder-strewn gravel roads and difficult stage layouts make this a true survival of the fittest. With a nine-week break in the WRC year after this event, the Subaru World Rally Team is heading to the Mediterranean keen to end the first half of the season on a high.
Since the Safari Rally left the WRC calendar, Greece’s round has assumed the mantle of ‘the toughest rally’. Durability is often just as important as outright performance. The ambient temperature – which can get as high as 40 degrees Celsius – puts driver fitness at a premium, while the rough conditions of the mountain roads are demanding on the machinery and the crews. The dust thrown up by other competing cars and rocks on the racing line are among the potential hazards, so the teams have to pay particular attention to under-car protection and engine cooling. The risk of punctures on sharp rocks is also a major factor, and the team’s tyre supplier BFGoodrich will offer a super-tough compound, introduced for the first time on the previous event in Sardinia, to suit the anticipated conditions.
The Acropolis Rally of Greece is one of the legendary events on the WRC calendar, albeit one that has experienced some major changes in a history that stretches back to the start of the World Rally Championship itself. In 2005 there was a major change in the event’s format. The rally had been based in central Greece, around the town of Lamia, 200km north of Athens, but two years ago it shifted its base to the Athens Olympic Stadium complex.
The move meant the rally organisers could incorporate some new special stages into the route, using some roads in the hills to the north and west of Greece’s capital city. For 2007 the base of the rally has moved once again – this time to the Olympic Equestrian Centre in Markopoulo, 30km south of Athens – but some of last year’s special stages remain, mixed with a selection of roads that are new to the drivers. One stage, Agii Theodori, measures a monster 48.88km and uses a combination of familiar sections and unknown roads. It is the longest special stage used so far this year, eclipsing the 46.02km St Pierreville – Antraigues test used on Rallye Monte Carlo.
The Olympic Equestrian Centre – which hosted the horse racing and horseback riding contests during the 2004 Olympic Games – will play host to the rally headquarters, the service park, and the ceremonial start and finish. Within the horse racing track a 3.3km gravel Super Special Stage has been designed. This stage, which will open the rally at 1900hrs on Thursday 31 May and close it at 1430hrs on Sunday 3 June, has a mirror-image layout and the two-driver, head-to-head format will whip the passionate Greek rally fans into a frenzy.
The scheduled SS9/20, Imittos, has been cancelled at late notice and so 21 of the planned 23 special stages will now be run. The organisers have altered the route accordingly and the competitive distance for the rally is 334.44km. The crews will also tackle 1237.89km of road driving, meaning the overall event distance is 1572.33km.
The Subaru World Rally Team has entered two Impreza WRC2007s for the eighth round of the World Rally Championship. Petter Solberg/Phil Mills will drive car number seven, while Chris Atkinson/Stephane Prevot will drive car number eight. Petter and Phil have contested the event six times with Subaru: in addition to a win in 2004, they have also finished second (2001), third (2003), fifth (2002) and seventh (2006). This will be Chris’s third time in Greece (albeit his first with Stephane Prevot as his co-driver) and the Australian is aiming to use the experience gained on the Greek stages in 2005 and 2006 to secure a solid points finish. The Subaru World Rally Team has a record of five wins in the past 13 seasons in Greece.
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