17 June 2001
McRae does the hatrick with Acropolis win.
At Subaru Richard Burns suffered gearbox problems on this morning's second stage, although his accident had cost him more than two minutes earlier anyway. The Englishman put the gearbox into 'safe change mode', which meant it took around two seconds for each shift. He then had to retire in SS19 with propshaft problems after just half a kilometre. Petter Solberg's Impreza has been more reliable - the young Norwegian changed the centre differential last night and was happier with the car's handling today as a result. He hit gearbox problems in the last stage but jammed the 'box in fourth and reached the finish.
Richard Burns set fastest time on today's opening stage to put greater pressure on the Fords of Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz, but on the longer second test he slid off the road and had to wait until spectators could return the car to the stage. The incident cost him more than two minutes, and he was then held up in the dust of team-mate Petter Solberg. A gearbox problem cost him more time in the same stage. Burns dropped to seventh, and his subsequent fightback was halted by propshaft failure in SS19.
Petter Solberg started this morning's first test hoping to hold off Harri Rovanperä for fourth, and that became a battle for third when Burns slid off. Despite stalling at one hairpin and filling the car with dust at another, and gearbox problems in the last stage, the Subaru driver did enough to score the first WRC podium finish of his career.
Richard Burns said: ''I braked too late for a second-gear corner and the car slid down a bank on the outside of the bend. I kept my foot on the throttle in the hope that it'd pull back onto the road but the bank was too steep and there was too much loose gravel so we had to wait until some people arrived to help us. But it was my mistake - there's nobody to blame but myself. I'd have liked to have taken at least one point, maybe two, but even that wasn't possible.''
Petter Solberg added: ''I'm delighted to get on the podium for the first time, especially on such a hard event as the Acropolis. We've had so much bad luck this year that I nearly cried with relief when I came out of the last stage!''
Meanwhile at Peugeot the sole remaining works 206 WRC of Harri Rovanperä was reliable today. Rovanperä hoped to overhaul Petter Solberg for fourth and that aim was strengthened when Richard Burns dropped back down the leaderboard and promoted Solberg to third. But Rovanperä lost nearly 20 seconds to the Norwegian in this morning's second stage, and he had to settle for fourth overall.
Harri Rovanperä said: ''I'm quite happy with the result, which is as good as we could have hoped for. This morning I tried really hard, perhaps a bit too hard. It's been a hard rally for the Peugeot team and we've had a lot of bad luck recently, though, so it's just good to get to the finish and show that when the set-up is right, the 206 is competitive. This is the first really trouble-free run for the new evolution of the car. We have work to do before Kenya but hopefully we can get a good result there.''
At Mitsubishi the two Mitsubishi Lancers of Tommi Mäkinen and Freddy Loix have performed reliably today, but the Belgian lost time in SS18 when an ATS mousse insert flew out of his right-front tyre. He had to stop and change a wheel, and lost nearly three minutes as a result.
Tommi Mäkinen knew he had to hold off a charging François Delecour this morning, and despite feeling that his Michelin tyres were too hard a compound and construction, the four-times world champion did enough to achieve that. With Burns's and Sainz's problems, he eventually finished fourth. Freddy Loix was held up by Gilles Panizzi's dust when the private Peugeot driver broke his suspension, and he then had to stop and change a wheel in SS18 when a mousse insert flew out of the tyre after six kilometres. He finished ninth, scoring two manufacturers' points for Mitsubishi.
Tommi Makinen said: ''Our tyres were very hard and we did not have such good traction on this event, but at least we've come away with some points and I'm still at the top of the championship. We have work to do before Safari, which will be a big challenge for everybody.''
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