Acropolis : Stobart M-Sport Ford - Preview
Brit Matthew Wilson reaches the half-way mark in his rookie FIA World Rally Championship season with one of the toughest rallies on the calendar, BP Ultimate Acropolis Rally, based around the Athens home of the 2004 Olympic Games.
and co-driver Michael Orr will have to put on a performance worthy of Olympic athletes in the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team as they tackle the 18 fast rock-strewn stages with the possibility of searing weather and car damaging rocks around every corner of the 356km of competitive distance.
Held three weeks earlier than last year, the Acropolis Rally returns to stages which have not been used in the event for almost a decade and according to engineers investigating them ahead of the event, the stages will present a tough challenge to both cars and competitors alike.
The event is seen as being one of attrition and Wilson can call upon the lessons learnt from the grueling first day in the last event, Rally d'Italia Sardegna, where he had to nurse his Focus RS through the first stages of the day with a rear wheel at 45 degrees from where it should have been. After that challenge Matthew completed the rally, but this time he's hoping to complete the event without similar drama.
The Acropolis Rally starts and finishes with a spectator-filled Super Special in the Olympic Stadium.
Wilson wowed the crowds with his fastest time in the final Super Special in Argentina and in 2005 the Stobart Motorsport Focus at the hands of Mark Higgins only missed out on the fastest time in the rally's opening Super Special by only a tenth of a second. Whilst Wilson will be happy to emulate Higgins' feat in the Olympic Stadium, his plan is to complete the rally and not roll his car as Higgins did last year.
Finn Kosti Katajamaki will be driving the second Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team Focus RS and he too will be paying particular attention to keeping his Focus facing the right way up after damaging his car in a roll in Sardinia. Katajamaki and co-driver Timo Alanne and is using the car used in Italy by Luis Perez Companc.
BP Ultimate Acropolis Rally runs from June 2-4. There is then a break of ten weeks until the following round of the FIA World Rally Championship, OMV ADAC Rallye Deutschland on August 11-13.
"It's another rough rally and until we've done the recce we won't know how bad it is. We've got a lot more protection on the car for this one as it is going to be that tough on the car. It's been a busy start to the season and I think everyone's looking forward to having a break before the next event. It will be good to get a solid result in Greece before the summer break and head to Germany on a high."
"The last rally was not so good for me but now I am concentrating on Greece. I have done the rally four times before but this year the stages are different. I think it was difficult getting back in the Focus after the long break from Sweden but it will be a lot better to start again in the Acropolis. We are hoping for a lot better result than last time."
Malcolm Wilson, Team Principal
"From what I've seen it's going to be more of a traditional type Acropolis Rally where the stages are very rough and very demanding which will make it very difficult to drive flat out the whole time. Somebody will drive flat out and somebody might be lucky and get through without any problems but I think tactics will come into it. It was important for Matthew to preserve his car in Sardinia for this event."
Press release Stobart M-Sport Ford