Volkswagen's Sebastien Ogier topped the times this morning in the qualifying stage for the Acropolis Rally of Greece.
Ogier, who is the runaway leader in the WRC Drivers' Championship standings, completed the 3.10 kilometre test in 2 minute 14.563 seconds, which put him more than a second up on Dani Sordo. Ogier will now get first choice of starting position for the opening leg.
“A good qualifying for us," Ogier said. "We saw during the recce just how important qualifying could be this time over the course of the rally. There is a lot of loose gravel on the special stages. As such, it is enormously important to have a clean line, particularly as the field only includes eleven World Rally Cars this time. I took a few more risks than usual and gave everything to ensure I was able to select the final starting position, and it paid off.”
Evgeny Novikov meanwhile was third in his Qatar M-Sport WRT-run Fiesta RS WRC car, followed by his team-mates Thierry Neuville and Mads Ostberg in fourth and fifth, the latter completing the stage with damage to his rear bumper.
Andreas Mikklesen was next up, with Nasser Al-Attiyah, Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala in positions 7 through to 9. Martin Prokop rounded out the top ten.
“Ninth is obviously not the result we were after," Latvala stated. "Unfortunately this means we will have to start very near the front of the field this evening, and will basically be sweeping the route clean for the cars after us. The qualifying stage was very sandy and soft, and deep ruts formed. I had problems steering and sticking to the ideal racing line in these ruts. That was my first time in the Polo R WRC on such soft ground, and we will have to reconsider the set-up of my car before the start.”
“Qualifying went well for us," Mikkelsen added. "A lot of dust found its way into the cockpit, which made it hard to see. At one point I veered off the line. Apart from that, it was a clean run. As such, sixth place is a good result for us. The Rally Greece is definitely the biggest challenge we will face this season. We are ready. I am particularly looking forward to this evening's night stage, which is something very special. Over the course of the entire rally it will be important to find the fight balance between saving material and attacking. Our minimum goal is, obviously, to reach the finish here in Loutraki on Sunday."
Drivers will now select their start positions at 12.15 hours local time [10.15 hours UK time].
The action then gets underway 'proper' with SS1 – Kineta-Pissia (47.70 km) - at 18.28 hours local time [16.28 hours UK time].
Acropolis Rally of Greece - Qualifying stage:
1. Sebastien Ogier
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC 2m 14.563s
2. Dani Sordo
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC 2m 15.667s
3. Evgeny Novikov
Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC 2m 15.826s
4. Thierry Neuville
Qatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC 2m 16.251s
5. Mads Ostberg
Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC 2m 16.593s
6. Andreas Mikkelsen
Volkswagen Motorsport II Polo R WRC 2m 16.978s
7. Nasser Al-Attiyah
Qatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC 2m 17.305s
8. Mikko Hirvonen
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC 2m 17.333s
9. Jari-Matti Latvala
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC 2m 17.977s
10. Martin Prokop
Jipocar Czech National Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC 2m 19.392s
11. Khalid Al-Qassimi
Abu Dhabi Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC 2m 20.312s
all times unofficial