Acropolis : Finish / PCWRC - Summary
An excellent drive by 2005 PCWRC runner-up Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT, Subaru) and co-driver Chris Patterson rewarded them victory on a tough and eventful BP Ultimate Acropolis Rally, the fourth round of the 2006 FIA Production car World
Gabriel Pozzo (RA, Mitsubishi) eventually brought his Mitsubishi to the finish in second ahead of Aki Teiskonen (FIN, Subaru) who came home third, clocking his first PCWRC points of the season. Al-Attiyah extends his lead in the PCWRC point standings to 34, 17 points ahead of Baldacci in second and Toshi Arai (J, Subaru) now lies third, two points further adrift.
Mirco Baldacci (RSM, Mitsubishi), Al-Attiyah and Aki Teiskonen (FIN, Subaru) all flirted with the lead early on leg one but a couple of stage wins for Pozzo pulled the Argentine driver into the lead by stage five and four more stage victories ensured he kept hold of it. Al-Attiyah and Teiskonen settled into second and third respectively, with Baldacci and Marcos Ligato (RA, Mitsubishi) fighting over fourth behind.
Unfortunately for leader Pozzo, a damaged radiator five kilometres before the end of SS12 on leg two saw his engine overheat, pulling him down the order to fourth after leading for eight stages. The lead was inherited by Al-Attiyah but after SS13 a five minute penalty that was applied to Al-Attiyah for a mistake on leg one seemed to drop the Qatari out of contention and saw Teiskonen start the final day in the lead, ahead of Baldacci.
But on an incredibly eventful day, the leaderboard changed several more times as a limping Teiskonen inadvertently held up Baldacci on the last stage proper to hand a surprise victory to the 2004 Athens Olympian Al-Attiyah, followed by Pozzo, who won the event sprinter standings. Baldacci had to settle with third ahead of Teiskonen and Arai in fourth and fifth. Subsequent penalties applied for a regulation infringement for Baldacci meant Baldacci eventually had to settle for fourth ahead of Arai in fifth.
Defending PCWRC champion Arai made a dramatic start to the rally when his gearshift broke only two kilometres into SS2. He improvised a fix using a spanner and wire from the toolbox but had to finish the stage stuck in second gear and the gearbox then stuck in third gear six kilometres before the end of SS4. Like many others he had to contend with bent wheel rims and being stuck in the dust of competitors ahead, but four stage wins and Latvala dropping back helped him eventually finish fifth. The more kilometres Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN, Subaru) covered, the more his hand, which is still recovering from its break in Corsica, gave him difficulties. He eventually settled in fifth but on the final day he had problems and the Finn left the midday service 13 minutes late as a result of changing a cracked fuel tank pulling him back to finish sixth behind Arai.
A good start for Marcos Ligato saw the Argentine reach fourth at best but a damaged front suspension on his Mitsubishi on SS11 saw him sidelined for the day and made working back up the order a difficult job with so many penalties. The Argentine driver eventually took two points for seventh.
Stefano Marrini (I, Mitsubishi) managed to stay relatively free of mechanical woes although he was affected by the dust of competitors ahead as they stopped to deal with problems. But after such a challenging event and on his first outing in his new Lancer Evo9, he was happy with finishing eighth. A broken driveshaft on SS6 followed by a broken suspension on SS12 resulted in Sergey Uspenskiy (Subaru) making use of the SupeRally rules for both days in order to restart the final leg and the PCWRC's Russian driver finished ninth.
Third Tango Rally team-mate Sebastien Beltrán (RA, Mitsubishi) suffered on leg one when his turbo pipe came loose three kilometres into SS3. He stopped to make repairs but the same happened again three kilometres later and he finished the stage 14 minutes down and spent the rest of the event simply staying out of trouble to gain more experience of the Greek stages, finishing 10th.
Five kilometres into the fourth stage Nigel Heath's (GB) Subaru went onto three cylinders, although the British duo managed to make repairs on the road section back to service. A number of punctures and further engine woes on leg two made for a difficult rally for the PCWRC's self-confessed ‘gentleman driver' who finished 11th.
The first day of the rally saw Takuma Kamada's Subaru get stuck in the dust of Marrini and the Japanese decided to take a penalty in order to gain an extra minute gap, although it was all in vain as three punctures on the second running of the long stage saw him sidelined for the day. Misfortune struck on leg two as a broken steering arm on SS9 saw him drop 20 minutes making repairs in the stage. More punctures on the final day meant he eventually finished 12th on his European debut on which his set two top three stage times en route.
On his first ever gravel rally, OMV CEE Rally Team newcomer Andrej Jereb was wary of pushing too hard and his careful approach paid dividends as his only real problem until the final day was a couple of punctures on SS12. Unfortunately the rough stages did eventually take their toll on leg three and the Slovenian struggled with turbo problems to finish 13th.
Local driver Dmitris Nassoulas (GR, Mitsubishi), entered into the rally as a PCWRC guest driver by the event organisers, had his fair share of problems contending with punctures, broken suspension, a broken water pump and subsequent overheating engine and the Greek driver finished 14th. Starting the rally second in the PCWRC standings, Leszek Kuzaj (PL, Subaru) was disappointed when his rally came to an end after a steering arm that was bent on SS3 finally broke on the next stage, resulting in him rolling his Subaru and with damage to the roll cage, he was not permitted to continue.
Nasser Al-Attiyah, Subaru Impreza WRX Sti spec C
“Of course it feels great to win this rally and I feel a little bit as if this result makes up for the penalty we got. Of course I feel bad for what happened to Teiskonen and Baldacci but I'm happy to get the points and this puts us a much better position in the championship with a good lead.”
Gabriel Pozzo, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9
“To sum it up, this has been a terrible event but normally I love this rally, We had bad luck as the car was working very well and before we lost the lead. But the points are good for me and good for the championship.”
Aki Teiskonen, Subaru Impreza WRX Sti spec C
“We took the whole rally very steadily just to avoid problems and then we hit problems on the final day but that's rallying. I'm sorry for Mirco who got stuck behind me but we just didn't see him. And I'm happy to score some points this year even if it wasn't for a win.”