In front of 50,000 people in Olympic Stadium
Rally Acropolis got under way with a spectacular special stage over 2.8 kilometres in Athens' Olympic Stadium today. At almost 38 degrees centigrade, about 50,000 visitors came to see this prelude to the rally, where two drivers
at a time are fighting an on-track duel with each other.
World champion Sebastien Loeb
(Citroen) posted the fastest time, his most serious rival for the WRC title, Marcus Gronholm
(Ford), was second, two seconds behind. Mikko Hirvonen (Ford), Francois Duval (Skoda) and Daniel Sordo (Citroen) completed the top five. Manfred Stohl (Peugeot) finished in P11 with a deficit of 6.7 seconds, the two Red Bull Skoda drivers Andreas Aigner and Harri Rovanpera were classified 14th and 16th respectively, 7.7 and 8.6 seconds behind Loeb.
Aigner, in good health just yesterday, complained of a severe headache after today's shakedown, probably caused by an upcoming case of the flu. The Austrian was examined by the FIA medical staff, who diagnosed a slight temperature: “I've been prescribed antibiotics as a treatment, I hope these pills will start to help overnight. Apart from that I'm feeling alright, I'm looking forward to this WRC event. We had a good shakedown, the working relationship with my new co-driver Klaus Wicha turned out to be a very smooth one.”
Harri Rovanpera was quite confident after the shakedown and the first stage: “Despite all these new roads I know some stages from earlier events, but that doesn't necessarily have to be an advantage. It will be a tough rally, whoever has the fewest tyre failures will be in front. I suffered two in today's shakedown alone. But I'm confident, and I will step on the gas right from the start.”
Armin Schwarz and Raimund Baumschlager hope for a distinct improvement in comparison with Sardinia: “We have worked a lot on both Fabia WRCs, concerning both the setup and the balance of the cars. Additionally we hope that we have come to grips with Harri's problem from Sardinia which concerned the front differential.”
Press release Red Bull Skoda Team