Acropolis preview: Burns guns for gravel hat-trick

The World Rally teams move to the hot dusty climes of Greece for round seven of the World Rally Championship which starts tomorrow (Friday). Richard Burns is favourite to take victory after comprehensively winning the event last year and winning both gravel events so far this season. However, four-time world champion Tommi Makinen must attempt to put the fight for his fifth crown back on course

Acropolis preview: Burns guns for gravel hat-trick

Makinen has only scored one victory this year - in the season opening Monte Carlo Rally. Burns leads the championship by 15 points and will be looking to stretch his lead over second placed Marcus Gronholm and World Champion Tommi Makinen, who lies a point behind Gronholm in third. A win from either Burns or fellow Brit Colin McRae would take the run of British wins to an impressive five in a row.

Burns' favourite status going into the Rally, allied with the Impreza's fine gravel form, has not dampened Andrew Cowan's optimism any. The Mitsubishi Ralliart Boss believes Makinen is over the health problems he suffered in Argentina and is ready to take the fight to the Subaru squad.

He said: "I'm expecting to see the old Tommi back again. He took time to recover from his sinus operation and the long trip to Argentina didn't help either. Now he's had time at home I'm sure we'll see a different performance."

Makinen has never won in Greece and won't have an easy time breaking that duck this weekend. The Finn will face stiff opposition from all sides as the resurgent Ford team, which despite a poor run of retirements, has always been on the pace. Colin McRae has only managed to finish twice in the past 14 events. Ford is on the rack in reliability terms and while McRae still says he wants to stay at Ford next season, there are growing suggestions that a deal to join either Subaru or Peugeot is close to being done, if it hasn't already been signed.

Other opposition for Makinen will come in the shape of the Peugeot team. This event is the first this season that the team are competing in with previous knowledge of the 206WRC, as it made its debut on the Acropolis last year.

Peugeot's Marcus Gronholm is Burns' closest challenger and while the Peugeot is quick, it remains fragile. Gronholm hasn't the necessary experience on this event to be considered an outright favourite, but another points finish is a strong possibility.

Peugeot's third car in Greece will be driven by Irish ace Mark Fisher as part of his prize drive for winning last season's Peugeot Challenge in the UK.

Burns will still lead the series after this event, regardless of whether he takes his fourth win of the season or not, but he knows this won't be an easy event.

"There are no easy events at this level and you can't consider 14 points to be much of a cushion at this stage of the year." However Burns is again favourite for victory and if he is successful he can go to the next trio of events (in New Zealand, Finland and Cyprus) with every chance of having an unassailable lead by the time the series returns to the asphalt events of Corsica and San Remo in the autumn.

The Acropolis is the halfway event of the 14-round series and will also be one of the toughest. Rocky roads and searing temperatures (over 30 deg C in the days leading up the rally) will be test enough of the stamina of both drivers and cars.

However, the FIA has controversially decided that, from now on, all crews must wear triple-layer overalls complete with fireproof underwear and gloves, despite the increased risk of heat exhaustion. Until now crews have been able to wear single layer suits and even T-shirt tops.

Subaru will utilise space-age technology in its quest to keep Burns and Juha Kankkunen (with their respective co-drivers Robert Reid and Juha Repo) cool. A special waistcoat will be worn beneath their overalls with cool water being pumped through tubes to try and alleviate the worst of the problem.

The Rally starts from Athens at 7.30am with five timed stages through the course of the first day. Leg two comprises stages six through to 12 with the final seven stages taking place on Sunday. The rally covers 403.7km of timed stages over the three days, finishing on Sunday evening at event HQ in the coastal town of Itea.

shares
comments
Revised Rally GB announced

Previous article

Revised Rally GB announced

Next article

Rally Oz to move in 2001

Rally Oz to move in 2001
Load comments
How Finland’s newest rally hero made WRC history in Estonia Plus

How Finland’s newest rally hero made WRC history in Estonia

Kalle Rovanpera broke a decade-old record in becoming the World Rally Championship's youngest-ever winner in a truly dominant performance on Estonia's fast gravel roads. Staving off the challenge of Hyundai's Craig Breen, his committed drive showed a maturity beyond his 20 years that gives Toyota's post-Ogier era a far brighter complexion

WRC
Jul 19, 2021
How WRC's new Safari adventure ended with a familiar tale Plus

How WRC's new Safari adventure ended with a familiar tale

The World Rally Championship’s delayed return to the Safari Rally was always set throw up some surprises, but aside from a spirited showing by Thierry Neuville it became another painful event for Hyundai in 2021. Once again it was Sebastien Ogier who took full advantage as he completed a stunning comeback drive

WRC
Jun 28, 2021
Remembering Colin McRae’s final WRC win Plus

Remembering Colin McRae’s final WRC win

The Safari Rally returns to the World Rally Championship this weekend for the first time since 2002 - when crowd favourite Colin McRae set aside the maximum attack style for which he was renowned to deliver a textbook third win

WRC
Jun 23, 2021
How Hyundai's broken record gave Toyota a special Sardinia 1-2 Plus

How Hyundai's broken record gave Toyota a special Sardinia 1-2

For the second WRC gravel rally in a row, a promising Friday for Hyundai turned into desolation as Toyota gratefully picked up the pieces. This time it was championship leader Sebastien Ogier who took full advantage after Ott Tanak and Dani Sordo retired to score a memorable victory, having swept the road on the first two days

WRC
Jun 7, 2021
How Hyundai's latest self-destruction handed Evans Portugal victory Plus

How Hyundai's latest self-destruction handed Evans Portugal victory

At one point Hyundai held the top three positions in Portugal, but when trouble struck the Korean marque's two leading chargers, a grateful Elfyn Evans was on hand to see off Hyundai third man Dani Sordo and become the third different winner in four rallies

WRC
May 24, 2021
Why the success of AVB's WRC debut won't be defined on the stages Plus

Why the success of AVB's WRC debut won't be defined on the stages

Three years after a Dakar Rally crash resulted in him being airlifted to hospital, Andre Villas-Boas is preparing to make his debut on his home round of the World Rally Championship later this month. His goals for the event are modest, but the same cannot be said for the charities he plans to promote where his true impact could be felt

WRC
May 13, 2021
Why there's no easy fix for Hyundai's operational Achilles Heel Plus

Why there's no easy fix for Hyundai's operational Achilles Heel

Hyundai Motorsport boss Andrea Adamo was vocal in his criticism of his team's tyre choices on Rally Croatia and declared that he "had better move my ass and solve it". Doing so will be vital to getting Hyundai's 2021 WRC title hopes back on track, but finding the root of the problem won't be the work of a moment

WRC
Apr 28, 2021
How Ogier held on after a shock bump in the road to triumph in Croatia Plus

How Ogier held on after a shock bump in the road to triumph in Croatia

Sebastien Ogier was already in an incredibly tight fight at Rally Croatia before a surprise collision with public road traffic at the start of the final day. But the defending champion held his nerve to take a narrow victory and create further World Rally Championship history

WRC
Apr 26, 2021