WRC » 6 June 2004
Solberg wins Acropolis Rally.
Francois Duval settled for fourth for Ford, to notch up his third points finish of the season, the Belgium had been in the running for second yesterday.
"It's been a good weekend," he reflected. "A podium would have been nice. We tried to match Rovanpera and Loeb early this morning but could not do it so we eased off and settled for fourth. We didn't want to take any risks and that tactic paid off. This is the first time I have finished the event in four starts. Today was especially hard because all the stages were new to me. But we have made improvements to our pace notes as well as driving quickly and that's good for the future."
Daniel Carlsson was the lead privateer, fifth overall, in his Bozian ran Peugeot 206 WRC, while Manfred Stohl was sixth, in another 206, with Janne Tuohino and Aris Vovos completing the top eight, and the last to score drivers' points.
Gilles Panizzi eventually finished tenth for Mitsubishi, engine problems in the final loop of tests dropping him down the order from sixth. He still scored manufacturers' points though, like Carlos Sainz, who came home 19th, after damper problems on the opening leg.
"Obviously this afternoon is disappointing for the engineers and mechanics, but I fought for them to bring the car to the finish," said Panizzi. "I am very happy to score manufacturer points for Mitsubishi. Our performance was obviously better than Cyprus and I'm happy to finish such a tough and hard event. I feel an upward trend."
In the Junior WRC, Guy Wilks took the victory for Suzuki, over 5 minutes up on Nicolas Bernardi, who was second. Only five 'Junior' contenders finished the event, Xavier Pons, Larry Cols and Olivier Marshall, third, fourth and fifth respectively.
In total 33 cars were classified at the finish, after 72 took part in the ceremonial start on Thursday.
A number of crews took advantage of the 'SupeRally' format, among them today, Marcus Gronholm, Markko Martin, Daniel Sola, Toni Gardmeister and Armin Schwarz - all but one of the works drivers who retired throughout the three-day event.
Reaction to the 'SupeRally' was mixed, Martin certainly made it clear he wasn't a fan, however for new teams and drivers, it was a bonus, allowing them to notch up more mileage and gain valuable experience.
Skoda boss, Martin Muehlmeier, who had both his drivers go out on day one, commented: "The first day of this rally started quite well for us. Toni was in a genuine sixth place and the performance gap to the leading competitors was exactly as we had expected. Unfortunately we suffered some reliability problems that were unexpected and we must address these so that we can be competitive on all three days. The SupeRally system enabled us to complete almost 450kms of extra testing that would not have been possible before. We were able to get results that would only have been possible in a competitive environment."
Sola also gave it the thumbs up: "The 'SupeRally' regulations were very important to me and the team here and we have gained a lot of knowledge and experience because of this."
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