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Greece - leg 1: Gronholm top

1 June 2007

Marcus Gronholm leads following the opening day of the Acropolis Rally, the eighth round in the 2007 FIA World Rally Championship and the final event before the two-month summer break.

Gronholm took the lead on the first test this morning, the 11.57 kilometre-run through Schimatari 1, demoting BP Ford team-mate, Mikko Hirvonen, who won the super special on Thursday evening, to second.

Marcus slipped back in the next few tests though as he lost time running first on the road and sweeping away all the loose gravel. He therefore dropped to fourth going into the mid-day service.

In the afternoon, the Finn managed to re-assert his dominance however and thanks to a quickest time in SS6, a second best time in SS7 and a fourth best in SS8, he will take an 8.3 second cushion into the second day on Saturday.

Petter Solberg meanwhile heads the chasing pack for Subaru, not that there is much separating the drivers' from second to sixth – with less than 3 seconds in it.

Petter had no issues all day, apart from not knowing his split times in SS7. Other than that he had a trouble-free run in his Impreza WRC2007 and both he and team-mate, Chris Atkinson showed good speed.

Atkinson led after winning SS3 and while he also had a spin in SS4, which cost him a few seconds, he still did enough to take his second stage victory in succession. The Aussie was unable to repeat the same sort of pace in the afternoon though and he relinquished the lead in SS7, when he also dropped behind his team-mate in the sister Impreza. Going into SS8 the gap between Atkinson and Petter was 2.8 seconds, after it the margin was just 0.7 seconds.

Triple world champion, Sebastien Loeb is next up in fourth place, the Frenchman suffered from his road position on the first loop, much like Gronholm. He managed to move two places up the leaderboard this afternoon though and he finished the day just less than 1.4 seconds off second.

Further down the order, Hirvonen and Citroen number two driver, Daniel Sordo round out the top six, split by just 0.4 seconds.

After Sordo, Stobart Ford's Henning Solberg is seventh, 35 seconds behind in his Focus. Despite being quite a way off the top six though the Norwegian was reasonably content with how things went this afternoon.

Jari-Matti Latvala is on course for the final drivers' point in eighth, while OMV Kronos Citroen's Manfred Stohl and Skoda privateer, Jan Kopecky complete the top ten.

In the Production Car World Rally Championship category, Toshi Arai leads, 4.6 seconds up on Juho Hanninen. Arai took the class lead in SS8 this afternoon, after Andreas Aigner had problems and dropped back to seventh. Gabriel Pozzo completes the PWRC top three, followed by Araujo Armindo and Simone Campedelli.

There were two major retirements today - namely Francois Duval, who was taking in his first WRC event since Rally GB at the end of last year and JRC regular, Urmo Aava.

Duval stopped in his First Motorsport-run Skoda Fabia WRC on the liaison section after SS4 with engine failure caused by a radiator leak, while Aava, who was competing in a privately entered Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05, stopped in the final stage.

The action now resumes on Saturday with the longest and toughest leg of the event. After leaving Markopoulo at 07.30, drivers face eight more stages covering 146.08km, divided into two loops split by service back at Markopoulo.

Most of the action is based west of Athens towards Korinthos and each loop begins with the massive 48.88km Agii Theodori, the longest stage of the season to date. There is a 15-minute remote service at Loutraki after each running of the test for drivers to regain their breath. The day ends with a second running of the super special stage at the Olympic Equestrian Centre which opened the action yesterday evening.


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