McRae heads tactical showdown in Greece

The Acropolis Rally hangs in the balance at the end of its first day, with the scene set for a tense tactical battle between the first and second placed Fords of Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz, and the Subaru of Richard Burns in third

McRae heads tactical showdown in Greece

Quite how the gameplan will pan out won't be known until Saturday morning when cars set off on Leg Two of the rally. As in Cyprus, several drivers tried hard not to be first on the road into tomorrow's stages, with the Subaru squad slowing more than the Fords to achieve this.

Burns led the early running, along with young gun team mates Petter Solberg and Markko Martin, but McRae and Sainz put in a late charge to take a Blue Oval one-two as the event heads into day two.

The rocky Greek stages are much faster once they have been cleared by the frontrunners, but there is a fine line between the road being cleared and becoming too rutted. McRae, therefore, decided to fly in the face of the recent trend of slowing down in order to get a better position on the road and do exactly the opposite.

"I pushed like hell and tried to make a break for it and stretch it out a bit," said McRae. "We don't have a choice because Richard [Burns] and the others can see exactly what we're doing anyway. It's not an option to play with Richard here and I'm fed up with playing with him anyway."

Burns decided to go the other way on the tactics front and will hope to enjoy better conditions running third on the road on Saturday as he has 33 seconds to make up on his Scottish rival.

"It's the same as when we had no choice in Cyprus: Colin has no choice here," said Burns, "It's not an insurmountable gap and I think we're perfectly capable of making it up."

Fortunately for them, Solberg and Martin both dropped back on the final stage with gearbox and suspension problems respectively, meaning the Subaru pairing will have the road cleared by their team leader on Saturday.

The event has again lived up to its tough reputation, with several top names sidelined today. Didier Auriol's Peugeot blew its clutch soon after the start of the opening stage, while reigning World Champion Marcus Gronholm lasted two stages further before he holed the sump on a rock and posted his sixth retirement from seven stages. Once again Peugeot will leave an event with no points and little real indication of when an improvement will be seen.

Gilles Panizzi finished the day sixth in the Grifone Peugeot, while
Harri Rovanpera wound up eighth in the sole remaining works 206 WRC. The Finn complained of handling problems throughout the day, but made suspension and transmission changes before the final stage and seemed much happier.

Other retirements include Toshi Arai, whose Subaru suffered an engine fire, happily without setting the countryside alight, and Thomas Radstrom, whose Citroen Xsara suffered electrical failure just two kilometres from the end of the final stage.

McRae and co have seven rocky and dusty stages to negotiate tomorrow, including a rapid fire three in a row in the middle of the leg, which could be make-or-break. Also key will be the fact that three of the seven tests are re-run stages, making the going tough for those further back. With Fords heading one way and Burns the other, it could go either way.

shares
comments
SS6, Mendenista 2: McRae takes overall lead

Previous article

SS6, Mendenista 2: McRae takes overall lead

Next article

SS7, Pavliani 2: Delecour off to a flyer

SS7, Pavliani 2: Delecour off to a flyer
Load comments
Does Neuville have a point with his Rally1 rant? Plus

Does Neuville have a point with his Rally1 rant?

OPINION: Thierry Neuville's diatribe against the upcoming Rally1-spec machines that will usher in the World Rally Championship's new hybrid era was remarkable in an era where drivers are usually reticent to air their views in public. But are the Belgian's concerns about speed, safety and cost entirely valid?

WRC
Sep 16, 2021
How the WRC's new flying Finn reached new heights in the Greek mountains Plus

How the WRC's new flying Finn reached new heights in the Greek mountains

After Kalle Rovanpera’s historic feat at Rally Estonia, the Finn scaled new heights at the Rally of the Gods with a commanding victory. And this time Toyota’s young star demonstrated why the future is bright with his devastating speed and consistency at the Acropolis Rally

WRC
Sep 13, 2021
The WRC drivers that came of age at the Acropolis Rally Plus

The WRC drivers that came of age at the Acropolis Rally

Five drivers have won first time out at the Rally Acropolis, transcending the tough dirt and gravel Greek roads to cement a place in rallying folklore. Here are three of the first-time winners' tales

WRC
Sep 9, 2021
Understanding Suninen’s sudden WRC exit gamble Plus

Understanding Suninen’s sudden WRC exit gamble

From being considered a likely contender to drive the next-generation M-Sport Ford Puma in 2022, Teemu Suninen's abrupt exit has created plenty of questions. The Finn's bid to become his country's next World Rally Championship winner won't be furthered by being sidelined, but there may be reason behind the decision

WRC
Sep 2, 2021
Could Spa’s cameo offer the WRC a new avenue to exploit? Plus

Could Spa’s cameo offer the WRC a new avenue to exploit?

OPINION: The Ypres Rally featured a cameo from the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in its final stage, giving WRC teams the chance to experience its iconic corners in rallying machinery. It proved to be an engaging addition to the rally, and could perhaps serve as an example for other events to visit famous circuits

WRC
Aug 24, 2021
How Hyundai's home hero delivered overdue WRC success in Belgium Plus

How Hyundai's home hero delivered overdue WRC success in Belgium

With limited recent fortune and pressure starting to mount, Hyundai needed a big result at the Ypres Rally. All the key components came together in Belgium to see home hero Thierry Neuville lead a manufacturer 1-2 and kickstart its World Rally Championship challenge

WRC
Aug 16, 2021
The new car that can resurrect Ford's WRC winning pedigree Plus

The new car that can resurrect Ford's WRC winning pedigree

M-Sport has become the first to unveil its new-for-2022 hybrid World Rally Championship challenger, the Puma Rally1. Ford has upped its support in a bid for glory, but can the new machine roll back the years and return the Blue Oval to the top of the WRC tree?

WRC
Aug 12, 2021
The rookie WRC driver aiming to continue Loeb and Ogier's legacies Plus

The rookie WRC driver aiming to continue Loeb and Ogier's legacies

French drivers have dominated the World Rally Championship across the past two decades; Sebastiens Loeb and Ogier have racked up the titles in commanding fashion. With Ogier calling it a day on full-time WRC competition from next year, France will pin its long-term hopes on rookie Adrien Fourmaux, who looks to have a bright future.

WRC
Aug 7, 2021