Hirvonen Surprises with Early Lead

Privateer Mikko Hirvonen has taken a surprising early lead in the Acropolis Rally after SS4

Hirvonen Surprises with Early Lead

Driving last year's Ford Focus, the former Subaru works driver finished the morning stages with a lead of two tenths of a second over Peugeot's Marcus Gronholm. The signs of Hirvonen's pace came early in the day, when the Finn scored an impressive stage victory on SS3.

Hirvonen, who as a privateer entrant is starting down the order, told Autosport-Atlas: "The roads were cleaning for us quite a lot. For the moment I'm enjoying my lead, but I think the boys will come back this afternoon."

The top five positions are only covered by 3.6 seconds, with Peugeot's Marcus Gronholm in second having won the days first stage. He had to resort to using the manual gearshift on SS4 after his regular system developed problems on SS3.

Gronholm told Autosport-Atlas: "The tyres were fine in the morning, but when the road is swept this afternoon it will be harder work for us."

Carlos Sainz continued to show the consistency that Citroen brought him out of retirement with third, ahead of Ford's Toni Gardemeister whose engine stopped twice on SS2.

Championship leader Sebastien Loeb, who had led the rally after yesterdays' Athens Super special, dropped to fifth. He was more than nine seconds off the lead after SS3, but has now pulled it back to 3.6s after a superb stage win on SS4.

Loeb told Autosport-Atlas: "The only clean part this morning was the end of the last stage. We were struggling in deep gravel. I'm not completely happy with the car's handling, but I don't know if that's because of the gravel or the car."

Petter Solberg's Subaru is sixth after going off the road three times on SS2 and loosing his bootlid. Despite the dust that came into his car, he is only 18.6 seconds off Hirvonen.

Skoda's miserable run in the World Rally Championship continued with two of their three cars retiring from Leg One.

Armin Schwarz retired between SS2 and SS3 after the German's Fabia WRC suffered engine failure. Teammate Janne Tuohino is also out after hitting a rock 5km from the end of SS2. He then radioed clutch failure from the startline of the next test.

The third and final Fabia WRC of Jani Paasonen was after SS2.

Top 20 Leaderboard - after SS 4

Pos Driver Make Time 1. Hirvonen Ford 44:01.0 2. Gronholm Peugeot + 0.2 3. Sainz Citroen + 1.1 4. Gardemeister Ford + 1.5 5. Loeb Citroen + 3.6 6. Solberg Subaru + 18.3 7. Rovanpera Mitsubishi + 22.4 8. Carlsson Subaru + 32.5 9. Martin Peugeot + 32.7 10. Galli Mitsubishi + 34.8 11. Solberg Ford + 38.2 12. Johansson Subaru + 38.5 13. Higgins Ford + 39.1 14. Paasonen Skoda + 41.2 15. Sohlberg Subaru + 55.8 16. Sarrazin Subaru + 56.4 17. Vovos Subaru +1:01.8 18. Pons Citroen +1:12.0 19. Atkinson Subaru +1:14.8 20. Papadimitriou Ford +1:54.1 
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Series WRC
Drivers Mikko Hirvonen
Author David Evans
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