Acropolis: BFGoodrich - Preview
Who knows whether the long Aghii Theodhori stage will decide the outcome of this year's Acropolis Rally. However, it goes without saying that BFGoodrich's tyres will face a particularly gruelling task on this daunting test that runs 48.88km
from the Saronikos Gulf to the Corinthian Gulf.
For the 2007 WRC calendar's eighth and also roughest round, the American tyre manufacturer will have three tyre types available: the g-Force Gravel, the H1 and the H2, all of which will be equipped with the indispensable mousse run-flat system.
Sisyphus, founder and King of Corinth, was a very smart man, to the point that he even managed to cheat Death. When Thanatos, Greek mythology's 'Grim Reaper', came to seek him, he tied him up so that he couldn't cart him off to Hades. For defying the Gods, however, Sisyphus was condemned to ceaselessly roll a rock to the top of a hill whence it would fall back of its own weight.
Sisyphus' story tells of the dreadful punishment represented by futile, hopeless labour. Such as that, for example, of Sebastien Loeb
in Sardinia the other week when his hopes of winning were thwarted by a rock just as victory seemed to be in his grasp.
The incident deprived the Frenchman of a 33rd world class win, of his position as leader of the provisional Drivers' standings and his status as a rallying god.
As a result, the Citroën driver will line up for the start of the 54th Acropolis Rally in the city of Athena – Goddess of Wisdom – as a simple and vulnerable, albeit valiant Hero.
Now wisdom is something drivers will require plenty of this weekend when they take on the sunbaked Hellenic mountain tracks that are reputed for being the roughest and most punishing of the year for the mechanicals, and something of a rocky horror show for the tyres.
"With the exception of Aghii Theodhori, the stages are actually not all that long," points out Chief BFGoodrich Technician Patrick Letort. "By the time crews come round for the second pass, though, they are totally cut up. For these conditions, BFGoodrich WRC drivers will be able to choose between the new extra-hard 10 compound g-Force Gravel that several drivers ran in Sardinia, the H1 Dani Sordo used in Greece in 2006 and the H2, a specific 'Acropolis' tyre with which Marcus Grönholm claimed eight stage wins on his way to his maiden win on this rally in 2006."
All these tyres will be equipped with the mousse run- flat system without which none of the WRC runners would have gone the distance on the 2006 Acropolis Rally since they all picked up at least one puncture. Designed and developed by the Michelin Group for the challenge of the Greek stages, the system was launched exactly 20 years ago.
Two decades later, after warding off countless misfortunes for generations of top drivers, it is poised to disappear from the sport. From Gods, tyres could well become simple Heroes once more. Epic or tragic? Vulnerable, certainly…
Priority drivers have a maximum quota of 70 tyres, of which they will be able to use a maximum 50 (rally + shakedown). These tyres were registered with the FIA on May 24.
As the toughest rally of the year, the Acropolis Rally permits priority drivers to nominate two different tyre patterns. The notion of 'pattern' actually covers the tread pattern itself and the tyre's size. The g- Force Gravel counts as one type of pattern, the g-Force Gravel H1 as another and the g-Force Gravel H2 as a third.
Crews are authorised to carry two spare wheels, although the run-flat mousse system generally means they only carry one to avoid additional weight (+25kg). Since the 2006 Rally of Greece, however, the FIA has banned drivers from running on three wheels on road sections. The rule isn't very clear, but Toni Gardemeister was excluded from the recent Rally de Portugal for driving to service on three wheels.
Half the stages of this year's Acropolis Rally are new, while the others have been modified. The initially-planned Ymittos stage was dropped following threats from ecologists.
Because of soccer's Champions League Final on Wednesday May 23, it was not possible to use Athens' Olympic Stadium for the HQ of this year's event. The event has consequently switched to the Markopoulo Olympic Equestrian Centre on the outskirts of Athens where the super-special will also be held.
Remote service zone
On Saturday, a remote service park is planned in Loutraki where crews will be able to change tyres after the 48.88km stage.
Ones to watch
Estonia's Urmo Aava (JRC winner in Portugal) makes his WRC debut in a WRC car equipped with BFGoodrich tyres. Also of note, the returns of François Duval (Skoda Fabia WRC) and Khalid Al Quassimi (winner of the recent Jordan International Rally).
BFGoodrich tops P-WRC
BFGoodrich leads the provisional Production World Championship standings with Japan's Toshihiro Arai (Subaru). The Acropolis Rally is Round 4 of the 2007 series and is doubtlessly the toughest of the year. Mousse run-flat systems are not permitted in the P-WRC, however, so good tyre management will be vital.