Mikko Hirvonen reckons a 'smart' approach could pay dividends this coming weekend on the Acropolis.
The Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team man had to settle for second in Argentina last month and he said post-event that he now really needs to start winning if he is to stand any chance of taking the 2011 WRC drivers' title [see separate story - click here
Greece however could be just the tonic he needs and while Citroen have won all five gravel rounds so far this year, the 'Blue Oval' has a good record on this event - regarded to be the toughest on the World Rally Championship schedule. Indeed Ford has come through to take gold seven times in the last ten encounters, with Hirvonen himself the victor back in 2009 – the last time it took place.
“Years ago all the stages were rough and abrasive. Today there are some smooth sections but there are many rocks – and it's still hot!” Hirvonen stated in the countdown to the seventh round in the series.
“The heat is a big challenge. It's essential to drink a lot before the rally to be properly prepared. It also helps to be in good physical shape, although that's a requirement for every rally. I plan to do some exercise when I arrive in Greece to help acclimatise to the temperatures there.
“If you're lucky you can survive for three days driving flat out from start to finish,” he continued. “But there are plenty of places where you must be careful and it pays to be smart.
“It's vital to think about how to drive here, as well as doing the actual driving. Ford has always built strong, reliable rally cars though and after testing in Greece last month, I know the Fiesta RS WRC lives up to that.”
Team-mate and Crash.net
columnist Jari-Matti Latvala meanwhile, who claimed his best Acropolis result in six starts in 2009 when he finished third, agrees the event is extremely tough.
“Greece is the hardest round of the season,” he added. “There were many retirements in 2009 due to the rough conditions. There are sections in which the roads are good and can be driven flat out.
“But there are also sections, especially in the second leg, where it will be essential to ease the pace to protect the car and tyres because of the rocks. The fastest car and driver might not win – it could be the one that is the strongest and cleverest.
"We tested in Greece last month and the Fiesta felt strong on the rocky tracks. We also tested in darkness to prepare thoroughly for the night stage during Saturday's second leg. That test could be decisive.
“If there is no breeze late in the evening then dust could be a problem for all except the first car in the running order. It could generate a big difference in times,” he summed-up.