21 June 2011 - 19:17
2011 Acropolis Rally DAY 3 - Photo finish!
19.6.2011 The 2011 Acropolis Rally proved to be fascinating, the big winner having been decided right at the last moment. Four drivers had a great chance for the win when the final leg started today. Sébastien Loeb had the disadvantage to start first on all special stages, followed by Sébastien Ogier, Petter Solberg and Mikko Hirvonen. The former 2003 World Champion found himself out of the winning game pretty early, whereas Hirvonen started closing the gap from the two Citroen drivers. Loeb managed to be extremely close to the top at least until the second today’s loop. At that point, Ogier pushed hard and eventually built a lead which was not lost until the finish line, allowing him to have the 5th victory of his career and the 3rd for this year. This victory came as a result of clever tactics during Day 1 and 2, so that he wouldn’t have to start first each special stage. This great victory went together with the fastest time at the Power Stage, just 9 milliseconds (!) ahead of Loeb, awarding him with 28 Championship points to carry in his luggage back home. Sébastien Loeb tried to defend his lead against Ogier’s attack early this morning, but he couldn’t keep up with his pace. In any case, the seven times World Champion leaves Greece with a good number of points, keeping him by far on top of the Drivers’ Championship. As far as the Manufacturers’ Championship is concerned, Citroen now has an important advantage of 55 points against Ford since the DS3 WRCars made 1-2 in Greece.
On behalf of Malcolm Wilson’s team, Mikko Hirvonen tried his best today to strike with a comeback, but it just wasn’t enough. Nevertheless, the 3rd overall position in Greece keeps his hopes for the Drivers’ title still alive, despite the fact that Ogier has gained on him. Petter Solberg made an impressive debut on Friday, but he had to clean the roads for the others on Saturday and lost his lead. Today he couldn’t keep up with the leading three and lost the chance for another podium place this year. The Norwegian driver was, though, awarded with the “George Moschous” trophy after a relevant vote by the fans of the “Rally of Gods” official website. His brother, Henning, returned behind the wheel of the Ford Fiesta WRC in Greece after his absence from Rally Argentina. He managed to take the 5th place avoiding any trouble on the hard Greek special stages. His team mate, Matthew Wilson, made it to the 6th place, having faced a lot of mechanical problems.
Meanwhile, Finn ex-IRC champion Juho Hanninen managed to achieve his first SWRC victory by taking advantage of Ott Tanak’s retirement on Day 2, when he went off road. Greek top team, Lambros Athanassoulas-Nikos Zakheos, have finally made it to the finish line by trying to stay away from trouble all day long. Their goal was, apart from finishing, having fun and gaining experience behind the wheel of their Ford Fiesta RS WRCar. We hope to see them again on our national Rally.
The 2011 Acropolis Rally has already its own chapter in the great book of Rally History. It has been a very successful event in terms of organization, fan presence and competition. It was a great comeback to the World Rally Championship Calendar. We’ll see you next year on the Greek mountains!
Automobile & Touring Club of Greece
2011 Acropolis Rally