In Petter Solberg's latest exclusive column on Crash.net, the Ford World Rally Team man looks back on the Acropolis Rally of Greece, where he was pushing for the win until it all went wrong in the first stage on the final day...
What can I say about Greece? It was so very, very disappointing to go out on the Sunday and I'm still gutted. I feel I let my team down, but now all we can do is look forward and stay positive. The Ford Fiesta RS WRC was again very competitive and I'm sure our luck will change soon. Granted, the situation in terms of the championships could be better, but it is not until it is over and we will all keep on battling. We will never give up!
The event started perfectly for me and it was great to set the top time in qualifying – the second occasion I have done that this year. I then gambled on tyre choice for the first stage as I expected it to be a little bit cooler, but unfortunately it didn't work out. That cost me some time, but the experience should help me in the future.
Besides, I was still very much up there and I clawed back the time on the first loop on Friday morning.
I had a big moment later on in the day when we hit a rock, but it is a real testament to the strength of the car that we could keep going and only lost about 10 or so seconds. The boys were able to fix the damage in the remote service zone and we ended day one still right up there. With only 15 minutes available, no spares and limited tools, they all did an incredible job and I owe them a massive 'thank you' for that!
Saturday afternoon then went brilliantly and to finish with three stage wins in the final three tests was fantastic.
The conditions were unbelievably rough, and the rain made it a real mud bath, but it felt very good to gain so much time and to halve the gap to rally leader Sébastien Loeb. Knowing that our car is so quick and that we have a good rhythm is very important, and it worked out perfectly.
It was such a shame then what happened first thing the next day. The accident occurred as I came into a long left-hand bend in a downhill section in Aghii Theodorii and hit the bank on the right. The car then bounced into the bank on the other side and ripped off the left rear wheel. It was a real pity, and then for Loeb, the eventual winner, to have that puncture on the repeat-run through the same test – well, it is obvious what might have been... There is a fine line between going for a win and settling for a secure second place.
We've proven however, that we are able to take up the fight and that we are fully capable of winning rallies. The car is also fully up for it and I would like to think that Chris [Patterson – my co-driver] and I are also!
On a separate note, it was, of course, good to have my regular team-mate Jari-Matti [Latvala] back for Greece after his injury-induced layoff. He is a great guy and we all missed him a lot in Argentina.
He made a great return too and thankfully managed to get some good points for the team with third, although he also had his own problems on the Saturday.
You are always going to have some difficulties in Greece, however, as it is one of the roughest events in the WRC. We all love it though, because the fans are great and so is the atmosphere. Luckily this year it was not too warm either, which was a bit of a relief, as it can get very hot in the cars. Regardless though, the Acropolis is a classic and it always will be.
I'm now looking forward to the next event in New Zealand. I always like to drive as rallying is my life and my passion. But after my early exit last weekend, I'm especially keen to head to Auckland.
It is a great place and the roads are just made for rallying. Everyone is always so welcoming too and that's very nice.
We don't have any tests planned prior to New Zealand, but that's not a problem as I have lots of experience there and won in 2004, as well as finishing third in 2003 and 2005.
I'll be aiming to bounce back – and I am confident I can.
Until next time, Petter Solberg
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