Citroen's Sebastien Loeb
has triumphed on the Acropolis Rally of Greece and he even had time to stop and change a puncture on the final day en-route
to his third win in Greece and his fourth victory of the season.
Loeb trailed Ford's Jari-Matti Latvala
early on, but moved to the front in SS4 on Friday, when the Finn overshot a junction. Seb then pulled out a 10.1 second lead on the middle loop and while he more or less maintained that margin in SS7 and SS8, he conceded 3.7 seconds in SS9, ending the first day with a 6.5 second advantage.
On Saturday morning, Loeb came under more pressure from Latvala, with the Finn cutting the gap to just 2.2 seconds. However in the afternoon Latvala made a mistake in SS14 and hit a bank. That incident left him with puncture and he lost over 3 minutes, dropping him back to fourth. Latvala's team-mate Petter Solberg
then took up the challenge and with torrential rain transforming the rocky roads into a mud bath, 'Hollywood' went on the attack, winning the final three tests on day two and reducing the gap to Loeb from 21.9 seconds to just 10.2 seconds.
This morning Solberg was keen to keep pushing, but he hit a tree around 13 kilometres into the first test of the day and ripped off the left-rear wheel. Although Solberg and co-driver Chris Patterson were unhurt, they were not able to continue. Loeb was thus left with a commanding lead and despite having to stop to change a puncture in SS20 he had enough in hand to still win, 40 seconds up on his team-mate, Mikko Hirvonen.
Loeb also set the pace in the event ending Power Stage as well, to take the maximum 28-point haul from the weekend, extending his lead in the drivers' championship from 18 points to 30.
“This rally was so long and difficult. We had some fortune in the morning, but in general we had to fight really hard,” Loeb said. “It was really good. I tried to always keep my rhythm and do what I felt. I tried to manage the car and the tyres. I believe that everybody has done a great rally, Mikko, Petter and Jari-Matti.”
Hirvonen meanwhile put in a very solid performance to secure the runners-up spot, and while he was pleased with the result, he was less happy with his pace.
“Realistically the speed was not great this weekend,” he confirmed. “I learned a lot from this rally though and it was a great result for the team. The team did a fantastic job with the car. I believe I can be faster than this.”
Jari-Matti Latvala secured the final spot on the rostrum and apart from his crucial mistake on Saturday had a great event on his return from injury: “I have to be satisfied because I am on the podium, but still I am disappointed because I could have win,” the Finn reflected.