Rd.4 BP Ultimate Acropolis Rally

Production Car World Rally Championship
 
1 to 3 June 2007

LEG ONE

Toshi Leads on Brutal Greek Stages

1 June 2007
Copyright © STI 
The first leg of the 2007 BP Ultimate Acropolis Rally saw Japanese challenger Toshi Arai leading the charge in the P-WRC after a tumultuous first day on the Greek stages.

This year's Acropolis Rally got off to an exciting start on Thursday night with crews battling each other in pairs over the specially-prepared 3.3 kilometre Superspecial spectator stage in the Athens Equestrian Centre on the outskirts of the capital. Leading among the Subaru-equipped entrants was Nasser Al Attiyah, third quickest and 1.2 seconds off the lead. In fourth, Patrik Flodin was just another two tenths back. Kristian Sohlberg lined up in sixth, with Toshi Arai 8th, ahead of newcomer Evgeny Vertunov (10th) and Takuma Kamada in 11th.

The rally really got underway in the morning with a group of four special stages covering 55 competitive kilometers. This was punctuated by the Lunchtime Service, after which crews faced a repeat of the first three tests of the day - to tally a total 106 competitive kilometers on Leg one.

Reigning P-WRC champion Nasser Al Attiyah played it safe on this opening day of tests, preferring to make sure he kept in the hunt for a points-haul at the end of the event. He is eighth after the first eight stages.

Toshi Arai found the first two stages very slippy, and really took care. It was then 'extreme care' on the third test of the morning, the initial 'Greek' stage - the first one that was rough. They took it easy in the afternoon, and wound up on top as a result. "I'm driving safely, going as fast as I can without encountering any punctures. The car's perfect." commented the former champion.

Copyright © STI 
The other Subaru-equipped contestant in the points after the first day, Mirco Baldacci had a puncture on SS4 about eight kilometers from the end. However, he drove it to the end of the stage. Nasser Al Attiyah feels that he started off far too slowly, and his disastrous fall from third to thirteenth on SS2 clearly shows that. He quickly picked up the pace however, and on SS4 had gained four positions to run sixth. The Qatari then fell back to twelfth on the first of the afternoon stages with a puncture on SS6, only to bounce back yet again, ending the day in ninth place after setting some top three stage times. "I'm a little disappointed with my pace on the very slippery stages early on; though we are happier to have lifted the pace later in the day," quoted the Qatari afterwards.

Leszek Kuzaj had a slow roll on a corner early on, though he got the car sorted and back on the road and continued. "This was most probably a mistake caused by being too cautious. If we had been going faster, it probably wouldn't have happened," commented the Pole. Kristian Sohlberg bent his steering on SS4, losing a lot of time as he had to change the part on the stage. This took about 12.5 minutes and cost him thirteen positions. He then continued to have problems in the afternoon with tyres for what was a fairly dismal start to his rally.

Patrik Flodin suffered a massive roll on SS3 while leading. Both the driver and co-driver are OK, but obviously a little unhappy. It was a big accident.

George Donaldson

STI Group N Project General Manager:
Copyright © STI 
"What an incredible first day of Acropolis Rally it's been. It should be no surprise, though it always is, that this event is won and lost by punctures and small mistakes against rocks. It seems that the Subaru drivers have suffered more than most - at least on the first morning; though they did recover somewhat in the afternoon. The problems have by no means been limited to our drivers. However, we've lost the challenge from Nasser, Leszek, Kristian, Mirco and Patrik - all down to punctures and small mistakes. Patrik of course having a rather large accident - and we're happy that both he and his co-driver Maria Andersson are suffering no after-effects from what was quite a big accident.

After all this devastation, the flag carrier for Subaru is Toshi Arai. Knowng his depth of experience, he leads by 4.6 seconds. Hopefully he'll be able to maintain this pace tomorrow and keep his lead. Mirco Baldacci is still very much in the fight for a top position, but he's got to recover from his two-minute time loss earlier on. At the end of the day remember, the lead driver lost well over seven minutes last year to time penalties - yet came back to take the win. So let's not write off either Mirco Baldacci or Nasser Al Attiyah just yet."

Tomorrow's stages are expected to be just as tough as today's.



Pos Driver Car Name Time   Diff  
1 Toshihiro ARAI SUBARU IMPREZA WRX STI 1:25:27.3 0.0
2 Juho HÄNNINEN Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 1:25:31.9 +4.6
3 Gabriel POZZO Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 1:26:59.2 +1:31.9
4 Armindo ARAUJO Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 1:27:08.1 +1:40.8
5 Simone CAMPEDELLI Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 1:28:01.8 +2:34.5
6 Andrej JEREB Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 1:28:07.0 +2:39.7
7 Andreas AIGNER Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 1:28:21.2 +2:53.9
8 Mirco BALDACCI SUBARU IMPREZA WRX STI 1:28:37.0 +3:09.7
9 Nasser Saleh AL-ATTIYAH SUBARU IMPREZA WRX STI 1:29:17.5 +3:50.2
10 Loris BALDACCI SUBARU IMPREZA WRX STI 1:30:05.8 +4:38.5