Gronholm’s in a determined mood, Loeb and Duval won’t take any chances, Mitsubishi is hoping for reliability and Skoda is raring to make a comeback at this weekend’s Acropolis Rally.

Gronholm’s in a determined mood, Loeb and Duval won’t take any chances, Mitsubishi is hoping for reliability and Skoda is raring to make a comeback at this weekend’s Acropolis Rally.


Earlier in the week, defending WRC champion Petter Solberg said that raw speed would be the decisive factor in this weekend’s event, especially after Michelin launched a new tyre for gravel events to trump Subaru’s Pirelli WRC rubber.


Peugeot to make amends?


Double world champion Marcus Gronholm will be hoping that the new Michelin tyres will give his Peugeot 307 WRC a crucial advantage in Greece, because the Finn is determined to put the disappointment of being disqualified from the Cyprus Rally behind him.


“I believed that I had a chance of winning before going to the Cyprus Rally, and I have to say that I was particularly pleased with the car’s performance there,” Gronholm said. “I am now very confident for Greece. In fact, I think we could be even stronger there than we were in Cyprus, so long as we don’t put a foot wrong of course, and so long as we keep clear of any problems.”


Harri Rovanpera, who will drive for Peugeot on all of this year’s gravel events, said: “There can’t be many tougher tests than Cyprus for a car as new as the 307 WRC. Given the island’s specific terrain and all the data we collected there, I believe we have some good cards in our hands for the Acropolis Rally.”


Loeb, Duval hoping for consistency


Citroën’s Sebastien Loeb has set himself the modest target of a podium finish on Sunday in a bid to try and restore his consistent finishing record, but he admitted that a better result was not out of the question if his rivals hit problems.


The Frenchman will be competing on the rough Greek stages for the third time in his career and faces the potential disadvantage of running first on the road on the opening leg and having to sweep the loose gravel off the stage surface.


“I don’t think that road order will have a big influence,” he said. “My main objective will be to stay in the leading group in the championship. I have already retired once this season, so I must focus on finishing high in the points. I will be happy with third. If I can come second, that would be nice,” the Frenchman said.


“The stages are not too slow, and certain portions permit the sort of driving style that I prefer – nice lines, power slides and good jumps. I’m naturally less fond of the rougher, narrower parts. You have to drive differently to be as quick as possible without running the risk of compromising the car’s potential,” he added.


Ford’s Francois Duval has admitted that he will be taking a conservative approach to this weekend’s event, even though his sixth position in the drivers’ championship standings gives him a significant advantage for the first day of the event.


“I like the event and, after the disappointment of retiring so early in Cyprus, I’m glad this rally is here so soon,” he said. “We had a good test earlier this week, and that has given me plenty of confidence. It’s a rally on which a driver has to think carefully about how to approach it. Some sections are very rough, and it’s important to protect the car and drive a little bit slower.


Mitsubishi aiming for double finish


Mitsubishi has set itself the challenge of finishing this weekend’s Acropolis Rally in a bid to stave off the disappointment of double retirements from the last two events of the WRC.


The team has had a troubled return to the top level of the sport this year, suffering suspension and gearbox problems on the cars of Gilles Panizzi, Gianluigi Galli and Kristian Sohlberg.


Panizzi is keen to reach the finish of the event to learn more about the car’s performance on rough surfaces: “We knew that Cyprus, Greece and Turkey would be difficult for us and, although the Acropolis Rally will be faster, it will probably be harder on the car,” he said. “Finishing is my priority, and then we will see what the performance of the car is like, because we still have a lot of work to do with the shock absorbers.”


Skoda’s back!


Skoda drivers Armin Schwarz and Toni Gardemeister this week said they were upbeat about the Czech team’s chances of success on its return to the WRC this weekend.


Skoda skipped the first part of this season to concentrate on the development of its Fabia WRC, which replaced the Octavia used until the middle of 2003. It will enter the remaining seven European rounds of the WRC ahead of a full-time return next year.


“The Acropolis Rally is a great challenge”, Schwarz said. “You need a strong and reliable car to be sure of making the finish. It will be my first event in the Fabia WRC, and my first event since last year, so I’m really looking forward to seeing how we compare to our rivals. The testing went very well, and I’m very happy with the set-up of the car that we have at the moment.”