6 June 2003
Martin and Ford take day one honours in Greece.
Ford driver Markko Martin picked up in Greece where he'd left off on the last round of the FIA World Rally Championship in Argentina. The Estonian retired from the South American event while leading - and he ended leg one of this week's Acropolis Rally in the same position.
Martin had been forced to give best to his team-mate Francois Duval on the opening test, however. From stage two onwards though, Martin led. Duval maintained the Ford one-two until the fifth stage of the day, when he slid off the road in his Focus. Martin's day wasn't without incident either. He was forced to drive 20 kilometres of that stage with the bonnet up on his car, following a heavy compression through a dip in the road, which forced the bonnet up. Despite extremely limited visibility, Martin was an amazing fourth quickest on the stage.
Peugeot's honour is being defended by Harri Rovanpera who is close on the Ford driver's tail at the end of today, while Marcus Gronholm was third until a fuel pump problem put him out heading to service after the final stage.
Duval retired his Ford Focus RS WRC 03 on SS5, sliding off the road eight kilometres from the finish of the test. Markko Martin's car ran reliably. Mikko Hirvonen retired his WRC 02 after breaking a wheel on the second run at the Pavliani stage.
There has been a Ford Focus RS WRC 03 at the head of the field all day today, with Duval leading after the opening test, only to give best to his team-mate Martin on the next stage. Martin maintained his advantage, despite having to drive 20 kilometres of the Elati - Zeli stage (the longest of the rally at 34km) with the bonnet up and blocking the screen. Despite this, however, he was still fourth fastest - just six seconds off the pace.
Duval was in second place when he slid off the road. Hirvonen's only problem was excessive tyre wear on SS5.
''Everything is okay,'' said Martin, ''The bonnet coming up was a bit of a pain. I don't know why it happened. We went into quite a hard compression and then the bonnet flew up. I couldn't see very much. I had to get right down and look under the bottom of the bonnet. It was really hard to find the corners, we were off the road for some of the time, but we made it through.''
''I am really disappointed with this,'' said Duval, ''Everything was going well, I was getting into the event and not going flat out. We came to a second or third gear corner, and there was a little mix up on the note. My co-driver told me something and I thought he meant something else. We just slid off the road a little and into a ditch. The problem was there were not enough spectators to help push the car out. So that was the end.''
Over at Peugeot Richard Burns' 206 WRC suffered gearbox problems on the second loop of stages today. The Englishman lost third gear on SS4 and was having trouble selecting second gear by the end of the following stage.
Rovanpera felt he had chosen the wrong tyres for the first three stages of the rally. On the right rubber for stages four and five, the Finn moved up the order and was up to second by the end of the leg.
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