Ford World Rally Team won all three speed tests this morning to maintain its clean sweep of fastest times in the Acropolis Rally of Greece. Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila won the opening two special stages to add to their victory last night, while team-mates Petter Solberg and Chris Patterson were quickest in the final test of the loop around the Gulf of Corinth.
As competitors arrived for the first of two visits to the short service zone in Itea, Latvala and Solberg were second and third respectively in their Ford Fiesta RS World Rally Cars. Just 4.5sec covered the leading trio after 82.53km of competition, and only a small mistake on the final stage of the loop deprived 27-year-old Latvala of the lead.
Today’s marathon leg, containing almost 16 hours behind the wheel and 169.12km of action, began with a loop around the Gulf from Loutraki to Itea. Both Latvala and Solberg opted for Michelin’s hard compound tyres on the rocky gravel roads. Temperatures were cool and drivers encountered patches of mud after yesterday’s rain.
The Finn, returning to competition after breaking a collarbone in a training accident, started with a 2.8sec advantage after winning last night’s opening stage. He extended that to 3.3sec after winning the 13.80km Aghia Marina and the 23.60km Thiva. However, he lost 10sec after stalling his engine and overshooting a corner in the 19.89km Elikonas.
“It’s great to win the first three stages of the rally,” said Latvala. “It was a shame to lose time on the last test. Midway through I came to a tight left bend which was muddy. I wasn’t prepared for it to be so slippery and when I braked the engine stalled and the car overshot the corner, but fortunately there was nothing to hit. In the same stage a box covering the onboard camera fell onto my legs. It distracted me but I was more annoyed about my mistake.”
Solberg restarted in fifth, 14.6sec from the lead. He was third through both Aghia Marina and Thiva to climb to fourth, before setting fastest time by almost 10sec in Elikonas to move to third.
“I was determined to regain the time I lost last night when I made a wrong tyre choice,” said the 37-year-old Norwegian. “I was angry with myself that I hadn’t managed to do that in the first two stages, so I pushed hard in the last one and it paid off. The car didn’t feel properly balanced in right bends, although it was perfect in left corners, so that’s something to look at in service.”
Leaderboard after stage 4 of 22
1. S Loeb/D Elena FRA Citroen DS3 57min 41.9sec
2. J-M Latvala/M Anttila FIN Ford Fiesta RS 57min 43.1sec
3. P Solberg/C Patterson NOR Ford Fiesta RS 57min 46.4sec
4. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen FIN Citroen DS3 57min 52.9sec
5. E Novikov/D Giraudet RUS Ford Fiesta RS 58min 25.1sec
6. M Østberg/J Andersson NOR Ford Fiesta RS 58min 33.5sec
7. O Tänak/K Sikk EST Ford Fiesta RS 59min 13.3sec
8. T Neuville/N Gilsoul BEL Citroen DS3 59min 27.2sec
9. M Prokop/Z Hrůza CZE Ford Fiesta RS 59min 46.8sec
10 S Ogier/J Ingrassia FRA Skoda Fabia S2000 1hr 00min 05.2sec