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47th Acropolis Rally
http://www.acropolisrally.gr
Round 7 of the FIA World Rally Championship
9-11th June 2000
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Extract from Official FIA Press Release
http://www.fia.com

Final Report
For the crews who completed today's final leg of the Acropolis Rally there will have been a collective sigh of relief. Rarely has an event been so destructive and less than half of the FIA World Rally Championship competitors lasted to the end. Ford came away with a 1-2 result after a remarkably trouble-free run for both Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz and the team was able to issue orders for its drivers to hold station. For a while it seemed that Sainz was not taking any notice of the team's wishes but in the end the Spaniard capitulated to give McRae his second win of the season. It is now two years since Sainz last won a round of the championship and so he will be keen to end that run next month in New Zealand. Despite the carnage in Greece, Richard Burns continues to lead the championship and will still do so after New Zealand while Ford's result has closed the gap to manufacturers' series leaders Subaru.

Ford
Ford began the day with a fairly comfortable lead over the chasing Richard Burns and after the Subaru driver withdrew from the event at the start of SS14 that advantage was increased to 8 minutes. Team director Malcolm Wilson issued instructions for rally leader Colin McRae and second placed Carlos Sainz to hold station even though they were just 39.1s apart with Sainz one place (and three points) ahead of his team mate in the FIA World Rally Championship points table. The team has rigged up a shower unit at the service area for the drivers to stay cool during this final day but it seems that they were in a pretty hot mood. Despite the orders to hold station Sainz promptly took 21 seconds off the leader on SS15 to close the gap to just under 8 seconds and then go clear over the next three stages. Ford continued to insist that the orders would remain in place although it was going to be hard to swap the drivers around without making it obvious. In the end Sainz slowed on the final stage, dropping two minutes to McRae, and handing the victory to the Scot. Petter Solberg was fastest on five of today's seven stages but became the last major retirement of the event when his diff failed on the way into final service.

Subaru
Richard Burns' frustrating Acropolis Rally turned to despair when his turbo failed on the opening stage of the day. He completed the test still in third place but after working on the car between SS13 and SS14 the engine refused to restart and Burns went OTL. This left Juha Kankkunen a distant third with Toshihiro Arai fourth but the Japanese driver was suffering with an engine problem and Subaru was also believed to be concerned about the state of yesterday's repairs to Kankkunen's car at this point. Arai's engine briefly dropped onto three-cylinders on SS14. Ensuring a permanent 'fix' for the problem took time, however, and the 20 seconds road penalties he incurred cost him fourth place to Armin Schwarz going into SS15 but he regained the position on the stage.

Skoda
Today has been a day for consolidation rather than heroics for Armin Schwarz although the German had a major heart-stopping moment on the opening stage. "I went through the watersplash and the engine dropped onto three-cylinders for a couple of kilometres," he explained. "My heart was in my mouth until it cleared!" A year ago Skoda scored its first WRC points with the Octavia at this event and Schwarz was not planning to jeopardise another scoring event this time. Fifth place marked the German's best result since joining Skoda and the team feels that its recent decision to confirm entries for the FIA World Championship newcomer, the Cyprus Rally, is fully justified in the light of this result.

Peugeot
Francois Delecour was a worried man between SS13 and SS14. The Frenchman had planned a routine switch of his tyres from front to back but the car jack broke and left him with no option but to tackle the second of the two stages as he had finished the first. "There seemed to be no grip at all," he explained, "so I was surprised when I saw my stage time and realised that I had been third quickest!" Of the performance, team manager Jean-Pierre Nicolas commented: "We just wanted to make sure that Francois gets to the finish. It's been a hard rally but we expected that. We were unlucky with Marcus but this is still a new car and people with much older cars have fared rather worse."

Other teams
The four remaining FIA Teams Cup drivers that started the day were all competing in the top ten places. Arai (Spike Subaru) continued to lead despite his misfire on SS14 and Frederic Dor (F. Dor Rally Team) suffered overheating and brake problems on the same stage. Serkan Yazici (Team Atakan) had a jack failure between SS13 and SS14 which cost a minute's road penalty. Top Greek driver suffered overheating and a misfire on SS13-14 but remained at the foot of the top 10. In Group N Gabriel Pozzo continued to lead with Gustavo Trelles, Manfred Stohl and Ramon Ferreyros fighting between them for second place, which eventually went to the reigning world champion.

Tyre facts
Michelin:
Michelin won its fourth victory of the 2000 season, with three different manufacturer partners on four different types of surface: winter tarmac (Monte Carlo, Mitsubishi), ice/snow (Sweden, Peugeot), clear tarmac (Catalunya, Ford) and, today with Ford, certainly the toughest European-style gravel round run in typically punishing Acropolis conditions. Michelin drivers used the Z and ZB patterns to lead from start to finish, setting fastest time on all but four of the nineteen stages. Michelin is particularly pleased that seven Michelin drivers finished inside the top ten.

Pirelli: Personal preference was the deciding factor in the tyre choice for Richard Burns and Juha Kankkunen this morning, Burns electing to run on the XR-pattern tyre while Kankkunen chose the K option. Which was the right choice? It's something we will never know as Burns suffered turbo failure and so his time was not representative. Burns and Subaru retained their championship lead despite the carnage. Pirelli-equipped Mitsubishis dominated the Group N contest.

NEXT EVENT: July 13 - 16: Rally New Zealand,
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Unofficial Final Results
1 McRae Ford Focus 4:56:54,8
2 Sainz Ford Focus 4:57:17,9
3 Kankkunen Subaru Impreza 5:03:33,1
4 Arai Subaru Impreza 5:04:35,6
5 Schwarz Skoda Octavia 5:06:05,8
6 Bakhashab Toyota Corolla 5:09:49,7
7 Richelmi Subaru Impreza 5:10:28,1
8 Dor Subaru Impreza 5:10:54,6
9 Delecour Peugeot 206 5:12:07,1
10 Papadimitriou Subaru Impreza 5:13:16,4

Group N
1 Pozzo Mitsu Lancer 5:18:51,8
2 Trelles Mitsu Lancer 5:20:04,6
3 Stohl Mitsu Lancer 5:20:47,7

2-Litre
1 Bugalski Citroen Saxo 5:36:55,3
2 Guest Hyundai Coupe 5:50:56,7
3 Leonidas Renault 5:55:18,4

Teams Cup
1 Spike Subaru Team Arai Subaru Impreza 5:04:35,6
2 Toyota Team Saudi Arabia Bakhashab Toyota Corolla 5:09:49,7
3 F Dor Rally Team Dor Subaru Impreza 5:10:28,1
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Provisional FIA World Championship Points
FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers (unofficial positions after 7 of 14 rounds):
Burns (GB) 38
McRae (GB) 24
Gronholm (FIN) 24
Makinen (FIN) 23
Sainz (E) 23
Kankkunen (FIN) 18

FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers (unofficial positions after 7 of 14 rounds):
Subaru 58
Ford 47
Peugeot 31
Mitsubishi 29
Skoda 8
SEAT 7
Hyundai 1

FIA Cup for Drivers of Production Cars (unofficial positions after 7 of 14 rounds):
Stohl (A) 31
Trelles (ROU) 28
Pozzo (RA) 16
Campos (P) 13
Menzi (I) 12
Paasonen (FIN) 11

FIA Teams' Cup (unofficial positions after 7 of 14 rounds):
Spike Subaru Rally Team 26
Toyota Team Saudi Arabia 22
F.Dor Rally Team 20
Team Ataken 13
Wisja TV Turning Point Rally Team 10
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Stage Winners
SS13 - Sainz, SS14 - Solberg, SS15 - Solberg, SS16 - Sainz, SS17 - Solberg, SS18 - Solberg, SS19 - Solberg
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SS 13 Pavliani I 24.71 km 1st Car: 09:27
1 Sainz Ford Focus 20:23,2
2 Solberg Ford Focus 20:25,2
3 McRae Ford Focus 20:32,2
4 Delecour Peugeot 206 20:35,3
5 Kankkunen Subaru Impreza 20:46,1
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SS 14 St Julia - Arbucies 22.82 km 1st Car: 12:13
1 Solberg Ford Focus 18:02,9
2 Sainz Ford Focus 18:12,0
3 Delecour Peugeot 206 18:17,7
4 McRae Ford Focus 18:22,4
5 Kankkunen Subaru Impreza 18:32,2
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SS 15 Paleohori - Elefhterohori II 10.71 km 1st Car: 11:48
1 Solberg Ford Focus 07:45,9
2 Sainz Ford Focus 07:46,7
3 Delecour Peugeot 206 07:46,7
4 Kankkunen Subaru Impreza 07:52,1
5 Arai Subaru Impreza 07:58,1
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SS 16 Gravia II 25.56 km 1st Car: 12:29
1 Sainz Ford Focus 18:28,0
2 Solberg Ford Focus 18:29,4
3 Delecour Peugeot 206 18:33,6
4 Kankkunen Subaru Impreza 18:38,4
5 Arai Subaru Impreza 18:47,3
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SS 17 Elatos II 10.56 km 1st Car: 13:08
1 Sainz Ford Focus 08:46,5
2 Solberg Ford Focus 08:47,8
3 Delecour Peugeot 206 08:52,1
4 Yazici Toyota Corolla 08:56,7
5 Kankkunen Subaru Impreza 08:58,7
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SS 18 Pavliani II 24.71 km 1st Car: 15:00
1 Solberg Ford Focus 20:16,2
2 Delecour Peugeot 206 20:28,9
3 Sainz Ford Focus 20:30,4
4 Arai Subaru Impreza 20:45,5
5 Kankkunen Subaru Impreza 20:52,6
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SS 19 Stromi - Inohori II 22.82 km 1st Car: 15:43
1 Solberg Ford Focus 18:15,0
2 Arai Subaru Impreza 18:38,0
3 Richelmi Subaru Impreza 18:41,9
4 Kankkunen Subaru Impreza 18:42,2
5 Delecour Peugeot 206 18:44,9
End of Leg 2 Report
Once again the Acropolis Rally has lived up to its fearsome reputation as one of the toughest in the FIA World Rally Championship. As the big names fought for every second on the rocky roads around Mount Parnassos their passage was marked by a trail of broken wheels and wrecked suspension. By the end of the day over half of the FIA World Championship registered drivers had retired from the event and there is little reason to believe that the rally will be any less gruelling tomorrow when the crews tackle the final seven stages, all of which are repeated from earlier use.

Ford
Amid the carnage of the opening pair of stages, Ford tightened its grip on the leaderboard as Colin McRae set fastest time on the second stage (the first driver of this event to do so from the first on the road position). "We've had a good start but it's not because we've been driving faster than everyone else," admitted McRae. "It's more because others have had problems and we haven't." The Scot suffered rear brake problems near the start of SS9 and had to complete that and SS10 in that condition, along with a slightly sticky power steering system. "We're going pretty well," he said. "I tried quite hard on SS9 because it's quite a good one but we'll have to be careful on the repeated stages." Team mate Carlos Sainz punctured and also suffered suspension problems on SS9 when a rear roll bar broke. "It was only a minor problem and it didn't cost us much time. It's nothing compared to the problems the others have been facing," he admitted. Stephen Finlay retired after SS6 with broken suspension and Petter Solberg completed SS7 with no power steering.

Subaru
Richard Burns was fastest on today's opening stage, making the expected full use of his better starting position where the roads were cleaned by earlier crews. However his progress was hampered on SS7 when he was forced to drive in the dust of the stricken cars of team mate Juha Kankkunen and Peugeot's François Delecour. The pounding from the roads caused his damper fluid to boil which further delayed him. "We've got no dampers again," he explained at the afternoon regroup. "It's not as bad as it was this morning but it just seems to go soft on the rough stuff. Once the suspension goes, what can you do?" Kankkunen's front suspension broke and he completed the stage with the wheel arch and underbonnet severely damaged. Time penalties were incurred at service while it was fixed but on SS9 he again had a front left suspension problem, albeit not so bad as the first.

Skoda
After struggling with a throat infection yesterday that left him unable to eat or drink in any great quantity, Armin Schwarz was feeling a lot better today. "I'm really glad that I'm still here," he said. "After yesterday I thought there was no way I could continue. His Octavia WRC is running well although like many he's found the suspension goes soft after a while. He also had to be pushed into the Parnassos service area with a dead starter motor. Commenting on the carnage around him he added: "The event is just as rough as ever but the speeds are now much higher and everyone is pushing a lot harder.

Peugeot
Marcus Gronholm punctured in SS7 but worse befell overnight third placed Francois Delecour who lost his right rear wheel after hitting it against a rock. Inevitably the tyre punctured, the brake failed and finally the suspension collapsed. He completed the stage on three wheels, losing around six minutes to fastest man Colin McRae but remarkably arrived in service without penalty and was able to continue. Gronholm lasted until SS9 before his engine expired when trying to complete the test with a broken wheel jammed in the wheel arch. Delecour was lucky to complete the final stage today when he broke the sump guard which caused a fire. He also lost a front wheel and limped to the end of the stage with a time some 10 minutes slower than his rivals.

SEAT
There was a scare in the SEAT camp mid-way through today's opening stage when the team radio suggested that Auriol had retired with a broken engine. It turned out to be not Didier but Gerard Auriol, his brother, whose gravel car had broken down. Unfortunately SEAT's relief was short lived as Didier completed the stage with the front left wheel missing. As two mountains and a 28kms stage lay between him and service it was impossible to continue. Toni Gardemeister climbed 13 places in the first three stages today (including completing one test with four punctures!) but was unable to progress beyond the end of SS9 when a steering arm broke. "You can't imagine how rough it has been," he said. Some stages were harder than those on the Safari but you have to drive much faster here. When the steering broke we could turn right but not left and so we had no choice but to stop."

Mitsubishi
With both FIA World Championship registered cars retiring yesterday, Mitsubishi's attention switched to the Group N contest where the marque has a virtual monopoly having started the day holding the first 12 places!

Hyundai
Like Mitsubishi, both Hyundai Accents retired yesterday (Alister McRae was a late retirement after going OTL last night) and so the Korean manufacturer was left to concentrate on Michael Guest's performance in the two-wheel drive Coupe kit car. He lost a wheel on SS7 but was able to continue as, fortunately, it was a rear one. He has also had brake problems.

Other teams
Overnight Group N leader Claudio Menzi lost his lead when he had to stop and change a puncture on SS7. This promoted Gabriel Pozzo to the lead ahead of Gustavo Trelles, Manfred Stohl and Ramon Ferreyros. Uwe Nittel has twice lost his sump guard while Trelles struggled after a watersplash when his wipers failed to work and the screen was covered with mud. In the FIA Teams Cup contest Toshihiro Arai has been way out in front in the Spike Subaru Team entry with Abdullah Bakhashab's Toyota Team Saudi Arabia Corolla second. Serkan Yazici (Team Atakan) and Frederic Dor (F Dor Rally Team) have been having a battle for third place but some five minutes behind Arai. The 2-litre category is currently led by the Renault Megane of Kris Princen despite it having a bent axle, with Citroen factory driver Philippe Bugalski second in the Saxo kit car, ahead of Michael Guest. The highest placed Greek driver, Aris Vovos, retired on the road section after SS10 with a damaged sump.

Tyre facts
Once again the tyres have taken a severe pounding on today's longest leg of the rally but the two rival companies have emerged with their honour intact and a near equal share of the fastest times!

Michelin: In what is without doubt the toughest European-style World Championship rally on the tyre front, Michelin continues to be very pleased with the combination of performance and durability shown by its Z and ZB patterns. The French firm's partners have used both these products during the day according to personal preference, with sometimes astonishingly close results in terms of time, including a further three fastest times. The Michelin ATS system has also continued to fulfil its role in those cases where air is lost from the tyre.

Pirelli: Richard Burns set fastest time on four of today's seven stages but was frustrated not to move further up the leaderboard as he found himself delayed with a recurring suspension problem. On the first and last pair of stages the Pirelli crews elected to use the same XR pattern tyres than had been the choice for yesterday but on the middle three stages, where there was more loose gravel to worry about, they switched to the K-pattern option. Pirelli's EMI anti deflation system was put to a stern test when Toni Gardemeister completed SS7 with four damaged tyres but still took sixth fastest time.

RETIREMENTS: Auriol (F), Gronholm (FIN), Gardemeister (FIN), Vovos (GR) + other non seeded drivers.

INFORMATION: After consulting with team doctors the stewards of the meeting agreed that, for safety reasons in the high temperatures, crews are no longer required to wear full fireproof overalls on this event if they wish.
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Unofficial Results at the end of Leg 2
Outright
1 McRae Ford Focus 3:01:09,0
2 Sainz Ford Focus 3:01:57,1
3 Burns Subaru Impreza 3:04:09,1
4 Arai Subaru Impreza 3:08:56,9
5 Kankkunen Subaru Impreza 3:09:00,8
6 Schwarz Skoda Octavia 3:09:40,6
7 Bakhashab Toyota Corolla 3:13:19,18
8 Richelmi Subaru Impreza 3:14:09,2
9 Dor Subaru Impreza 3:14:19,9
10 Yazici Toyota Corolla 3:14:33,7

Group N
1 Pozzo Mitsu Lancer 3:17:50.3
2 Trelles Mitsu Lancer 3:19:43.8
3 Stohl Mitsu Lancer 3:20:46.7

2-Litre
1 Bugalski Citroen Saxo 3:27:21.1
2 Guest Hyundai Coupe 3:39:22.5
3 Leonidas Renault 3:41:10.7

Teams Cup
1 Spike Subaru Team Arai Subaru Impreza 3:08:56,9
2 Toyota Team Saudi Arabia Bakhashab Toyota Corolla 3:13:19,18
3 F Dor Rally Team Dor Subaru Impreza 3:14:19,9
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Stage Winners
SS6 - Burns, SS7 - McRae, SS8 - Burns, SS9 - Sainz, SS10 - Burns, SS11 - Burns, SS12 - McRae
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SS 6 Zeli I 28.32 km 1st Car: 09:47
1 Burns Subaru Impreza 20:44,9
2 Sainz Ford Focus 20:52,1
3 Solberg Ford Focus 21:00,9
4 Gronholm Peugeot 206 21:04,6
5 McRae Ford Focus 21:06,3
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SS 7 Mendenitsa I 28.05 km 1st Car: 10:47
1 McRae Ford Focus 19:58,5
2 Gronholm Peugeot 206 20:02,6
3 Sainz Ford Focus 20:08,4
4 Solberg Ford Focus 20:26,5
5 Burns Subaru Impreza 20:35,8
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SS 8 Paleohori - Eleftherohori 10.71 km 1st Car: 12:27
1 Burns Subaru Impreza 7:46,0
2 Sainz Ford Focus 7:47,0
3 Gronholm Peugeot 206 7:47,1
4 Delecour Peugeot 206 7:51,4
5 McRae Ford Focus 7:51,7
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SS 9 Gravia I 25.56 km 1st Car: 13:08
1 Sainz Ford Focus 18:18,6
2 McRae Ford Focus 18:18,9
3 Burns Subaru Impreza 18:24,5
4 Delecour Peugeot 206 18:35,1
5 Vovos Toyota Corolla 18:37,8
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SS 10 Elatos I 10.56 km 1st Car: 13:47
1 Burns Subaru Impreza 8:40,3
2 McRae Ford Focus 8:40,6
3 Sainz Ford Focus 8:43,9
4 Delecour Peugeot 206 8:51,5
5 Schwarz Skoda Octavia 8:53,6
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SS 11 Zeli II 28.32 km 1st Car: 15:59
1 Burns Subaru Impreza 20:48,8
2 Sainz Ford Focus 20:57,9
3 McRae Ford Focus 20:59,3
4 Delecour Peugeot 206 21:01,6
5 Kankkunen Subaru Impreza 21:06,8
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SS 12 Mendenitsa II 28.05 km 1st Car: 16:59
1 McRae Ford Focus 20:04,1
2 Sainz Ford Focus 20:21,1
3 Solberg Ford Focus 20:37,1
4 Kankkunen Subaru Impreza 20:42,3
5 Arai Subaru Impreza 20:46,6

End of Leg 1 Report
The Acropolis Rally lived up to its reputation as one of the toughest events in the FIA World Rally Championship with several leading crews retiring after damaging their cars and others effectively losing all chance of a top result with marginally less dramatic problems. Colin McRae took charge of the event with a string of fastest times and also benefited from running further back on the road. Tomorrow should see another switch around of positions as tonight's leaders suffer in the same way that Richard Burns has done today, leaving the battle finely poised for a frantic dash to the finish line on Sunday afternoon!

Ford
Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz were the men on a charge early today, the Ford stars benefiting from running further back on the road where the surface had been swept clean by previous cars. "I wanted a good clean run and that's just what I got," enthused McRae who led the event after the first three stages as the cars arrived at the Inoi service area. I'm quite surprised by the pace but I'm not pushing that hard. There are a lot of hidden dangers hereas Marcus has just found out!" Sainz's only problem on the early stages was the searing heat that is being made worse by the crews having to wear full fireproof overalls for the first time. "It's really unpleasant but there's nothing we can do about it except drink plenty of fluid." Petter Solberg was up to third after the second stage but slipped well back on the third after going off and getting the car stuck on a bank. "There were 20 or so people watching but no one wanted to help. In the end I got down on my knees and begged them to push and finally four came along to help," he said.

Peugeot
Marcus Gronholm's hopes of closing the gap to FIA World Championship leader Richard Burns were dashed on SS3 when the Finn rolled his Peugeot. It was 10kms from the end of the stage," he explained. "I cut a slow corner but there was a concrete post hidden in some bushes and obviously it wasn't in my notes. The car rolled very quickly." He was able to get the car to service and continue, but he admitted that he had lost too much time to offer a serious challenge. Happily he was uninjured in the accident but then cut his hand on some of the broken glass while trying to close the door at service. Francois Delecour's progress was hindered by running for some considerable distance in the dust of Toni Gardemeister's ailing SEAT.

Subaru
A broken front shock absorber cost Richard Burns time early on but it was the problem of running first on the road that cost the Championship leader the most time. "I can't do anything about it today but I'm happy where I am," he admitted. "The heat is the biggest problem and there's no doubt that it's affecting my reactions," he explained. Burns' co-driver Robert Reid, actually collapsed for heat exhaustion at the end of stage 5, but recovered shortly after and was able to continue in the event. Team mate Juha Kankkunen was experimenting with different tyre compounds to the ones chosen by Burns but he was conscious that today was a day to be careful. "You have to survive today because tomorrow the competition will be a lot harder," he said. Both cars were lucky to do just that as a mysterious brake problem hampered both their progress on the final stage of the day.

Mitsubishi
Freddy Loix was the first major retirement of the event, the unlucky Belgian driver forced to abandon after the first stage with damaged suspension. "I didn't hit anything," explained Loix. "We were coming to a slow left hand corner and something happened at the rear of the car. We lost a wheel and we completed the stage with the back of the car dragging on the ground which is why we had to retire with two more stages still to go." Team leader Tommi Makinen fared little better although he lost the same right rear wheel after hitting a wall on SS3. He completed the stage in te same state as Loix but was able to get the car to service for repairs. It was 12 kms from the end of the stage when we slid wide and hit a stone wall," he explained. Unfortunately his rally was over on the next stage when the left rear wheel came off the car. The team will need to evaluate the problem but initial reports suggest hub shaft failure on both Makinen and Loix's cars was the cause.

Hyundai
Kenneth Eriksson was another of the events early retirements. The Hyundai ace was fourth fastest on the opening stage but then retired after SS3 when he lost all but first and second gears. The resultant strain of pushing on in that condition and also being stuck behind Luis Climent's ailing Skoda for several kilometres proved too much for the Accent WRC and engine failure forced the Swede out. Alister McRae was going strong in the second car but lost time in service after the team needed to change a steering rack. Then after completing the final stage, a rock broke one of the cars track rod ends, connecting the steering rack to the wheel. After reaching the service point on three wheels, they exceeded their maximum time allowed by just two minutes and where out of the event.

SEAT
Toni Gardemeister spent the first three stages of the event struggling with failed power steering and was running well down the order by the time he reached service. After the problem had been fixed he was able to show more of the speed he is capable of. "Two kilometres into the opening stage the power steering stopped working. We had to drive 48kms without it before we reached service and the mechanics could fix it. It was 65 degrees C° in the cockpit. Stage three was like driving through hell, because the road was very twisty and it was very physically demanding. My arms feel like lead and my hands are all burnt and blistered. The stage felt like it had 1000 corners," he admitted. Team leader Didier Auriol had a huge scare on the same stage when the throttle jammed open and he had to use the transmission to control the car's speed. The engine also began to overheat and cut to a 'safe' power setting as a result. Auriol said: "The conditions are what we expected - extremely difficult. The Cordoba has been good, but about 1.5kms before the end of stage three the throttle stuck open and we almost went off the road. Then on the road section after the stage the steering broke. The mechanics did a good job to fix it, but as we left service it broke again, so they had to change it once more and we collected 1m40s of road penalties. We could be in fourth position, but with that we dropped to 12th."

Skoda
A severe fever and throat infection was not how Armin Schwarz would have liked his state of health to be going into this event but the German had to battle on gamely. "I'll carry on till I die!" he joked. The team had to change the seals in the differentials at service which cost some road penalties but otherwise he was surviving quite well. His team mate Luis Climent didn't reach service after his car was parked up on the road section after SS3. He lost a wheel on the stage and delayed other cars as he limped through the stage. It was clear that he was not going to be able to have the unit fixed at service and so pulled out on the spot.

Other teams
Former FIA European Champion Krzysztof Holowczyc was forced out of the FIA Teams Cup contest when he pulled off the road on SS3. A power steering pressure loss forced him to retire after he wrenched his arm struggling with the car. Briton Stephen Finlay (Ford Focus WRC), surprised a few onlookers ending the day in sixth place. Toshihiro Arai was setting some really fast times in the Spike Subaru team car and underlining his growing ability on rough events. Group N was again a Mitsubishi benefit with Argentinian Claudio Menzi and Gabriel Pozzo heading current series leader Manfred Stohl, who was struggling with shock absorber problems.

Tyre facts
With the road surface temperatures rising close to 50 degrees C° this was undoubtedly the toughest test for tyres of any European-based rally so far this year. Today has nevertheless been carried out at a furious pace although the start order has had a direct bearing on the relative performances of the drivers, as was also the casea year ago.

Michelin: The leading Michelin crews selected either the ZB or Z pattern tyres and were fastest on all five stages today. Michelin's ATS mousse was called upon to work on several occasions, most notably on SS3 where Colin McRae punctured but was still able to set the fastest time and take the rally lead. Pirelli: The Pirelli crews stayed faithful to the XR pattern tyre throughout today's stages but selected from three different compounds and constructions within that pattern. Punctures were rare but when Didier Auriol suffered on SS3 the EMI anti-deflation system worked correctly to maintain the tyre's performance characteristics.
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Unofficial Results at the end of Leg 1
Outright
1 McRae Ford Focus 1:04:09,6
2 Sainz Ford Focus 1:04:48,1
3 Delecour Peugeot 206 1:05:22,5
4 Kankkunen Subaru Impreza 1:06:10,4
5 Burns Subaru Impreza 1:06:18,5
6 Finlay Ford Focus 1:07:36,2
7 Arai Subaru Impreza 1:07:39,6
8 Bakhashab Toyota Corolla 1:08:10,0
9 Schwarz Skoda Octavia 1:08:13,8
10 Papadimitriou Subaru Impreza 1:08:31,8

Group N
1 Menzi Mitsu Lancer 1:09:50,9
2 Pozzo Mitsu Lancer 1:10:11,0
3 Stohl Mitsu Lancer 1:10:39,6

2-Litre
1 Princen Renault Megane 1:12:02,4
2 Bugalski Citroen Saxo 1:14:18,3
3 Guest Hyundai Coupe 1:15:26,8

Teams Cup
1 Spike Subaru Team Arai Subaru Impreza 1:07:39,6
2 Toyota Team Saudi Arabia Bakhashab Toyota Corolla 1:08:10,0
3 Team Atakan Yazici Toyota Corolla 1:09:42.0
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Leading Retirements
- Loix, Mitsubishi - Eriksson, Hyundai - Climent Skoda - Martin, Toyota - Holowczyc, Subaru - Makinen, Mitsubishi - A.McRae, Hyundai - 15 non seeded drivers
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Stage Winners
SS1 - Gronholm, SS2 - McRae, SS3 - McRae, SS4 - Gronholm, SS5 - McRae
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SS 1 Skourta 20.02 km 1st Car: 11:40
1 Gronholm Peugeot 206 11:54,6
2 Solberg Ford Focus 11:55,5
3 McRae Ford Focus 11:56,7
4 Eriksson Hyundai Accent 12:01,8
5 Burns Subaru Impreza 12:07,4
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SS 2 Klidi 8.09 km 1st Car: 12:11
1 McRae Ford Focus 5:40,1
2 Sainz Ford Focus 5:40,5
3 Gronholm Peugeot 206 5:40,7
4 Solberg Ford Focus 5:42,0
5 Makinen Mitsu Lancer 5:43,1
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SS 3 Thiva 20.12 km 1st Car: 12:42
1 McRae Ford Focus 16:23,1
2 Sainz Ford Focus 16:27,6
3 Burns Subaru Impreza 16:36,7
4 Kankkunen Subaru Impreza 16:37,2
4 Delecour Peugeot 206 16:37,2
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SS 4 Kineta 9.47 km 1st Car: 15:40
1 Gronholm Peugeot 206 5:20,7
2 Solberg Ford Focus 5:20,7
3 McRae Ford Focus 5:22,1
4 Delecour Peugeot 206 5:22,9
5 Sainz Ford Focus 5:24,8
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SS 5 Agii Theodori 31.11 km 1st Car: 16:05
1 McRae Ford Focus 24:47,6
2 Gronholm Peugeot 206 24:53,1
3 Sainz Ford Focus 25:07,7
4 Delecour Peugeot 206 25:07,8
5 Solberg Ford Focus 25:24,1
The FIA World Rally Championship reaches its halfway point with the Acropolis Rally, one of the oldest and toughest rounds of the 14 round series. The rally base has moved once more to the coastal town of Itea although many teams have chosen to stay at the historic town of Delphi, home of the famous oracle of ancient Greece. Temperatures in the 30s are doubled inside the rally cars and that will bring its own increased stress levels for crews who, from this event onwards, must now wear FIA approved triple layer overalls. The Acropolis is a rally where, like the Safari in Kenya, the slightest error can have dramatic effects on the outcome with the cars' suspension especially vulnerable on the rough and rocky Greek roads. Position on the road is expected to be critical and tactical positioning can be expected to avoid running first (and cleaning the loose gravel off the surface for the benefit of following drivers) any more than is absolutely necessary.

Subaru (54 points)
Whatever happens on this year's Acropolis Rally, FIA World Rally Championship leader Richard Burns will not be overtaken as he is 14 points clear in the Drivers' series. That's a nice position to be in but it doesn't mean you can relax for a moment, he said before the start of a rally he won last year. People are saying that I'm the pre-event favourite but there's no such thing as an easy win in rallying - they're all difficult! Team mate Juha Kankkunen admitted that this was one of his favourite events (he first won here in 1986) but added: I guess you have to have rough events like this one to make the others seem smooth! For Subaru this is a special moment as it marks the tenth anniversary of its link with Prodrive. The first Prodrive Subaru appeared on the 1990 Acropolis Rally in the hands of Markku Alen. I think we learned more about rallying in those few days than in all of the years since, admitted team principal David Lapworth.

Ford (31 points)
After a strong showing in Argentina, Ford's Carlos Sainz is hoping to enjoy a tenth anniversary party of his own in Greece. I've won here three times, the last time with Ford in 1987, but this was also the place where I won my first World Championship Rally in 1990, he explained. It's one of my favourite rallies because it always brings back good memories. For Colin McRae the challenge is to finish this especially tough event. He's won twice before, in 1996 and 1998, but the Scot is not enjoying a great deal of reliability at present. The situation is getting better, he insisted, so I'm looking forward to challenging for victory. A top finish should be possible but the big question will be the pace of the Subaru. It should be a very competitive event. Ford has again entered a third car for Petter Solberg who is making his first entry on the Greek classic.

Peugeot (29 points)
One year ago Peugeot gave the 206WRC its gravel debut on the FIA World Championship. On that occasion Marcus Gronholm set fastest time on the opening stage but failed to complete many more. This year the Finn is lying second to Burns in the FIA Drivers Championship and Peugeot is third in the Manufacturers' series so a more competitive result is to be expected. However, Gronholm's early departure last year means that there are still many stages that are new to him at competitive speeds. I may have to take things steady at times so I don't know what kind of result to expect, he admitted. Team mate Francois Delecour likes the event and says: This time we will be on equal footing with our rivals which has not always been the case to date. A third Peugeot 206WRC is being entered for Irish driver Mark Fisher, winner of the British Peugeot Challenge. This is his Acropolis debut and part of his prize for winning that series.

Mitsubishi (29 points) T
he Acropolis Rally is one of the few events that FIA World Rally Champion Tommi Makinen has yet to win. That's something I'd quite like to put right this time! he said. The stages aren't so rough this year and we've got some new suspension that is just what I asked for so I'm feeling pretty confident. Position on the road will be quite important I think. Team mate Freddy Loix doesn't fully share Makinen's opinion about the roads: It's not that much smoother than last year but the organisers have taken out the roughest stages. Behind the battle for outright victory Mitsubishi is anxious to claim its seventh successive Group N win of the season and maintain its perfect record. Manfred Stohl leads the Group N World Championship but his failure to finish in Argentina means that World Champion Gustavo Trelles is now quite close behind.

SEAT (7 points)
SEAT team leader Didier Auriol is another driver who has won this event (in 1992) but he knows that he has enjoyed both good and bad luck here. I'm much more confident with the Cordoba now, he insisted, and I think we're quite close to finding the set-up we want. During yesterday's shakedown tests Auriol spent a long time fine-tuning the front suspension settings for the car to his liking. You need the strongest and fastest car possible, he added. You can't avoid the rocks here so you have to drive flat out and hope for some good luck. Team mate Toni Gardemeister is again attempting an event for the first time. I've never even been to Greece on holiday so everything is new to me. It will be quite difficult on the fast sections because those are the hardest to make pace notes for until you really know the roads.

Skoda (5 points)
One year after Skoda's Octavia WRC scored its first FIA World Championship points (Skoda and Mitsubishi were the only two teams on last year's Acropolis to get both cars home in the points) the Czech team is back and aiming to push harder. It's a severe test, said Armin Schwarz and we must find a sensible pace, especially on the stage that are being run twice. Team mate Luis Climent has recently been confirmed in the second car for the rest of the season (his position was believed in jeopardy with the loss of personal sponsor Airtel). Last year I was in the FIA Teams Cup and missed my first points by just six seconds so I want to make up for that here, he explained. Skoda is, however, fearful that it will be let down by its Speedline wheels that broke 15 times during yesterday's 3-hour shakedown. The team has confirmed that it is to evaluate some customer-specification O.Z. rims during the event.

Hyundai (1 point)
Alister McRae is in buoyant mood heading into this weekend's event. I'm really looking forward to it after our points-scoring event in Argentina. We've made good progress recently but we know that this will be a tough test and very hard on our cars. Hopefully we've identified any problem areas. Last year McRae's team mate Kenneth Eriksson won the 2-litre 'Formula 2' category on this event but now he's hoping to score his own first points with the Hyundai Accent WRC. I see this event as part of our development process and we'll be going as fast as we can in the conditions. Hyundai has a third car entered in Greece, a two-wheel drive Coupe, for Australian driver Michael Guest. This is part of his Winfield-backed development programme.

Other teams
This year's Acropolis Rally has received arguably the best ever entry for the FIA Teams Cup with no less than six teams registered. Toyota drivers Serkan Yazici and Abdullah Bakhashab represent Team Atakan and Toyota Team Saudi Arabia respectively while the Subarus of Krzystof Holowczyc, Frederic Dor, Toshihiro Arai and former Group N competitor Hamed Al Wahaibi represent in turn the Wizja TV Turning Point, F Dor, Spike Subaru and Arab World teams. Al Wahaibi hasn't competed for five months after finishing second in last season's Group N competition but is returning in a two-year programme again backed by his country. Citroen is also preparing for possible future entries on this event by sending Philippe Bugalski to Greece with a Saxo kit car while Kenyan Champion Alistair Cavanagh makes his debut on the event, 10 years after another Kenyan champion, Ian Duncan, did the same.
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Itinerary.
Leg 1
Friday 9th June - 87.20km competitive - 454.73km total
09:30 Start from Athens (Acropolis)
11:40 SS 1 Skourta 20.02 km
12:11 SS 2 Klidi 8.09 km
12:42 SS 3 Thiva 20.12 km
15:40 SS 4 Kineta 9.47 km
16:05 SS 5 Agii Theodori 31.11 km

Leg 2
Saturday 10th June - 159.57km competitive - 507.36km total
07:30 Start from Itea
09:47 SS 6 Zeli I 28.32 km
10:47 SS 7 Mendenitsa I 28.05 km
12:27 SS 8 Paleohori - Eleftherohori I 10.71 km
13:08 SS 9 Gravia I 25.56 km
13:47 SS 10 Elatos I 10.56 km
15:59 SS 11 Zeli II 28.32 km
16:59 SS 12 Mendenitsa II 28.05 km

Leg 3
Sunday 11th June - 141.89km competitive - 442.32km total
07:30 Start from Itea
09:27 SS 13 Pavliani I 24.71 km
12:13 SS 14 St Julia - Arbucies 22.82 km
11:48 SS 15 Paleohori - Elefhterohori II 10.71 km
12:29 SS 16 Gravia II 25.56 km
13:08 SS 17 Elatos II 10.56 km
15:00 SS 18 Pavliani II 24.71 km
15:43 SS 19 Stromi - Inohori II 22.82 km
18:00 Finish of the rally in Itea
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Leading Entries (top 40; 1st & 2nd seeded drivers)
1 BURNS Richard/REID Robert GB/GB Subaru Impreza WRC 2000 A8
2 GRONHOLM Marcus/RAUTIAINEN T. FIN/FIN Peugeot 206 WRC A8
3 MAKINEN Tommi/MANNISENMAKI R. FIN/FIN Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution A8
4 SAINZ Carlos/MOYA Luis E/E Ford Focus WRC A8
5 McRAE Colin/GRIST Nick GB/GB Ford Focus WRC A8
6 KANKKUNEN Juha/REPO Juha FIN/FIN Subaru Impreza WRC 2000 A8
7 AURIOL Didier/GIRAUDET Denis F/F Seat Cordoba WRC A8
8 LOIX Freddy/SMEETS Sven B/B Mitsubishi Carisma GT A8
9 GARDEMEISTER Toni/LUKANDER Paavo FIN/FIN Seat Cordoba WRC A8
10 DELECOUR Francois/GRATALOUP D. F/F Peugeot 206 WRC A8
11 SCHWARZ Armin/HIEMER Manfred D/D Skoda Octavia WRC A8
12 CLIMENT Luis/ROMANI Alex E/E Skoda Octavia WRC A8
13 ERIKSSON Kenneth/PARMANDER S. S/S Hyundai Accent A8
14 McRAE Alister/SENIOR David GB/GB Hyundai Accent A8
15 SOLBERG Petter/MILLS Philip N/GB Ford Focus WRC A8
16 MARTIN Markko/PARK Michael EE/GB Toyota Corolla WRC A8
17 PAPADIMITRIOU J/PETROPOULOS N GR/GR Subaru Impreza WRC 99 A8
18 KYRKOS Leonidas/POLYZOIS G. GR/GR Ford Escort WRC A8
19 HOLOWCZYC Krzysztof/FORTIN J. PL/B Subaru Impreza A8
20 VOVOS Aris/KOLTSIDAS Spyros GR/GR Toyota Corolla WRC A8
21 RICHELMI J.P./BARJOU T. MC/F Subaru Impreza WRC A8
22 ARAI Toshihiro/FREEMAN Roger J/GB Subaru Impreza WRC 99 A8
23 AL/WAHAIBI Hamed/SIRCOMBE T. OM/NZ Subaru Impreza WRC 99 A8
24 BAKHASHAB Abdullah/WILLIS B. SA/GB Toyota Corolla WRC A8
25 DOR Frederic/BRETON Didier F/F Subaru Impreza WRC 99 A8
26 YAZICI Serkan/BODUR Erkan TR/TR Toyota Corolla WRC A8
27 TRELLES Gustavo/DEL BUONO J. ROU/RA Mitsubishi Carisma EVO VI N4
28 STOHL Manfred/M_LLER Peter A/A Mitsubishi Lancer EVO VI N4
29 NITTEL Uwe/RUF Detlef D/D Mitsubishi Carisma EVO VI N4
30 COLARDPierre/MONDESIR G. F/F Subaru Impreza A8
31 FERREYROS Ramon/SAENZ G. PE/PE Mitsubishi Lancer EVO VI N4
32 MENDEZ Gabriel/MUZIO Daniel ROU/E Mitsubishi Carisma EVO VI N4
33 MENZI Claudio/GALINDO E. RA/RA Mitsubishi Lancer EVO VI N4
34 POZZO Gabriel/ORTIZ R. RA/RA Mitsubishi Lancer EVO VI N4
35 GUEST Michael/GREEN David AUS/AUS Hyundai Coupe EVO II A7
36 PRINCEN Kris/COLEBUNDERS Dany B/B Renault Megane A7
37 BUGALSKI Phillippe/CHIARONI J. F/F Citroen Saxo Kit Car A6
38 FINLAY Stephen/KENNEDY Rory GB/IRL Ford Focus WRC A8
39 FISHER Mark/NOBLE Gordon GB/GB Peugeot 206 WRC A8

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