Suzuki driver P-G Andersson is leading after the opening day of the Acropolis Rally, round four of the Junior World Rally Championship. Urmo Aava is second in another Ignis, while the similar car of Kosti Katajamaki is in fourth. Right behind him is the Ignis of Guy Wilks in fifth,
while the Suzukis of Martin Prokop and Alan Scorcioni are classified eighth and ninth.
P-G enjoyed a close battle with the Citroen drivers, but was able to push hard and pull out a 32 second lead after four stages today. P-G has set five fastest times so far while Guy has set two. This means that Suzuki has won every stage of the Acropolis Rally that has so far been run!
The first leg of the all-gravel event consisted of six demanding stages, run through the countryside around the port of Lamia. Weather conditions were dry and hot, with temperatures peaking at 31 degrees centigrade. The stages were as usual rough and rocky, which meant that punctures were a constant risk.
P-G took the lead on the opening special stage today and maintained it until the end of the leg. His Suzuki Ignis was entirely reliable, and he ran with no problems or punctures throughout the day.
P-G, the reigning Junior World Champion, said: "We pushed hard on the first three stages, in order to be sure of building up a comfortable gap. The car is very good, and our test at the beginning of the week was extremely helpful, and a key factor in our strong performance. Conditions have been hot and difficult but I always enjoy them."
Urmo Aava was also straight on the pace to power into a well-deserved podium place at the end of leg one. He was forced to stop and change a puncture on the first stage this morning, but apart from that ran with no problems throughout the leg.
The Estonian commented: "Today has been very good for us. However, I'm a little disappointed as I just lost out on fastest stage time on SS5 to Guy Wilks – by 0.7 seconds! I've got no real problems with the car and I'm quite happy. I hope we can build on this pace tomorrow."
Guy Wilks was not so lucky. The Englishman hit a rock in the middle of SS2 this morning and holed the gearbox casing. Guy stopped on the road section to investigate the problem and top up the gearbox oil. However, he arrived at the following stage late and was forced to drive at a reduced pace in order to preserve the gearbox. Guy was eventually able to return to service where the gearbox was replaced. On the final long stage (SS7), Guy lost time stuck behind Martin Prokop, who had a puncture and was not able to see him.
Guy said: "It's disappointing to start the rally in such a bad way, but I couldn't avoid hitting the rock as it was right in the middle of the road. I suppose it could have been worse as we are still in contention, but it was a big blow to have a problem of this type so soon. But we are still pushing, and we are going to be trying our hardest possible to make up the time lost."
Suzuki Sport President Nobuhiro "Monster" Tajima said: "Greece is always a tough challenge, but our test before the event made life a little easier for us. P-G has shown fantastic pace today, although Guy has been quite unlucky. But it's really too early to say anything, there's still a very long way to go, and the Acropolis can bite back! The cars seem fast and reliable, which is the most important thing so far."
Kosti Katajamaki, driving an Ignis run by Suzuki Sport Europe, had a puncture on the first stage today and also damaged the gearbox against a rock – in a similar but less severe version of the incident which held up Guy. On stage four Kosti hit the gearbox against yet another rock, with a resulting loss of fourth gear on the final stages.
The Finn commented: "I'm disappointed that all these troubles with rocks have cost us time, but that is the nature of Greece I suppose. I'm hoping for a trouble-free run tomorrow. With no problems I think we can be challenging at the sharp end."
Tomorrow's second leg of the Acropolis Rally is the longest of the entire event, taking in 122 competitive kilometres over eight stages. Weather conditions are again expected to be warm and dry. The first car leaves Parc Ferme in Lamia at 0830 (CET+1) and returns to the town at 1900.
Press release Suzuki Motorsport