Victory in the Greek round of the World Rally Championship, the legendary Acropolis Rally, at the weekend (30 May – 1 June 2008) has put Citroen’s Sebastien Loeb back into the lead of the of the drivers’ title chase and Citroen within two points of the manufacturers’ title lead but it was not an easy win with Citroen fighting tough, unforgiving conditions right through the event.
Loeb dramatically took the lead of the event on Day One when both Ford drivers managed to hit the same rock on the same stage at more than 150 kmh, damaging their suspension and plunging them down the leaderboard. It was Loeb’s turn to have problems on day two, when his team mate, Dani Sordo took the lead when Loeb had puncture problems. Loeb then re-took the lead as multiple punctures sent the Spanish Citroen driver down the leader board.
With 110.74 km of againsttheclock action on the programme, with a menu of three stages to be contested twice each prior to the final visit to the Tatoi superspecial, the event's last leg was no Sunday stroll.
True, the terrain wasn't as rough as that encountered on Saturday, but the weather was as hot as ever and the day provided further drama. Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena nevertheless controlled impeccably from in front to collect their second Acropolis success, the 41st world class victory of their career and their fifth win of the year from seven starts. It also takes Citroën's score in the WRC to 47 wins.
"We haven't had such a quiet Sunday for some time," joked Sébastien at the finish. "After yesterday's punishing stages, today's conditions were far more straightforward. We succeeded in driving sufficiently quickly to stay focused but at the same time we did what we could to make sure we spared our tyres and car all the way to the flag."
"This is an important win for us," continued the reigning World Champion. "It shows the progress we have made on the loose, while the work put in by everyone in the team to adapt our Citroën C4 WRC to its Pirelli tyres across the full spectrum of surface types has paid dividends. I am pleased with our run over what are incontestably the toughest stages of the season. Today's result has enabled us to recover the lead in the championship and it's been a good weekend, too, in terms of the Manufacturers' championship. The strength and competitiveness of our C4 and the successful management of our Pirelli tyres were the main keys to success here."
For Sordo, Sunday was a battle back up the leader board after the time lost on Saturday.
"Our objective today was to reach the finish," admitted Dani Sordo. "Marc and I opted for a safe pace, yet we still managed to move up two places, so that's a good result. Had it not been for our problems yesterday (Saturday) we would probably have finished higher up the order, but I am still pleased with our final position which means valuable points for Citroën. I succeeded in staying completely focused over the three days."
Given the tough conditions, Citroen’s team boss is pleased with the result, if at one point it could have been a Citroen 1-2 in Greece.
"It would be difficult not to be pleased with the outcome of this rally, which is the roughest of the entire championship," said Olivier Quesnel. "Victory went to the C4 WRC, Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena are back on top of the Drivers' standings and Citroën is still very much in the running for the Manufacturers' title. Dani and Marc put in a strong run, too, while Urmo finished 4th and Conrad 10th in their Citroen C4 WRCs. Citroën has every reason to be satisfied with its weekend here in Greece and, if we manage to enjoy the same sort of run in Turkey in two weeks' time, it will be an ideal way to go into the summer break!"
Day 1: SS1: JariMatti Latvala (Ford Focus) – SS2: Sébastien Loeb (Citroën C4) – SS3: J.M.
Latvala – SS4, SS5 and SS6: S. Loeb – SS7:UrmoAava (CitroënC4).
Day 2: SS8: Mikko Hirvonen (Ford Focus) – SS9 and SS10: Gigi Galli (Ford Focus) – SS11: M.Hirvonen – SS12:U.Aava– SS13: M. Hirvonen.
Day 3: SS14: Chris Atkinson (Subaru Impreza) – SS15: J.M. Latvala – SS16 and SS17: G. Galli – SS18 and SS19: J.M. Latvala – SS20: Dani Sordo (Citroën C4 WRC).
Best performers: J.M. Latvala, 5 stages win – S. Loeb, 4 – G. Galli, 4 – M. Hirvonen, 3 – U.Aava, 2– D. Sordo, 1 – C. Atkinson, 1.
Leaders: SS1 to SS3: JariMatti Latvala – SS4 to SS8: S. Loeb – SS9 to SS11: D. Sordo – SS12 to SS20: S. Loeb.
Final leaderboard on 55th Acropolis Rally* (7/15)
1. S. Loeb/D. Elena (Citroën C4) 3 h 54 min 54,7 s
2. P. Solberg/P. Mills (Subatu Impreza) + 1 min 09,5 s
3. M. Hirvonen/J. Lehtinen (Ford Focus) + 1 min 56,1 s
5. D. Sordo/M. Martí (Citroën C4) + 4 min 49,7 s
6. M. Wilson/S. Martin (Ford Focus) + 6 min 11,3
7. JM. Latvala/M. Anttila (Ford Focus) + 6 min 47,5 s
8. H. Solberg/C. Menkerud (Ford Focus) + 9 min 14 s
9. T. Gardemeister/T. Tuominen (Suzuki X4) + 10 min 13,8 s
10. C.Rautenbach/D.Senior(CitroënC4) +13min29,1s
FIA World rally Championship’s rankings ‘Manufacturers’ (round 7/15)*
1. Ford, 81 points – 2. CitroënTotal, 79 pts – 3. Subaru, 50 pts – 4. Stobart, 37 pts – 5. Munchi's, 16 pts – 6. Suzuki, 10 pts.
FIA World rally Championship’s rankings ‘Drivers’ (round 7/15)*
1. S. Loeb, 50 pts – 2. M. Hirvonen, 49 points – 3. C. Atkinson, 31 pts – 4. JM Latvala, 26 pts – 5. D. Sordo, 25 pts – 6. G. Galli, 17 pts – 7. P. Solberg, 17 pts – 8. H. Solberg, 12 pts – 9. M. Wilson, 10 pts – 10. F. Villagra, 8 pts – 11.U.Aava,6pts – 12.C.Rautenbach,5pts – 13. F. Duval, 5 pts – 14. A. Mikkelsen, 4 pts – 15. JM. Cuoq, 2 pts – 16. T. Gardemeister, 2 pts – 17. A. Aigner, 1 pt –
18. PG. Andersson, 1 pt – 19. J. Hänninen, 1 pt – 20.S.Ogier,1pt.
*Subject to final publications of the results by the FIA.
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