The Rally of the Gods rewards citroen

Dubbed the ‘Rally of Gods’ by the organisers, the Greek round of the WRC saw Citroën Total World Rally Team reach Elysium with a superb overall result. The Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen crews recorded their third one-two finish of the season to go with those obtained in Mexico and Argentina. Sébastien Loeb and Citroën therefore extend their lead at the top of the World Championships, while Mikko Hirvonen moves into second place in the Drivers’ standings.

After two long days of racing, the final leg of the Acropolis Rally seemed somewhat easier. The 65km of timed stageswere split into two loops, interspersed with a thirty-minute stop at the service park. With a mere 10-second advantageover Petter Solberg, Sébastien Loeb flew off on the Aghii Theodori stage, pushing to the max. After a few kilometres, amessage appeared on the DS3 WRC’s dashboard informing him that he could ease off a little: “Petter was reported tohave come to a halt on the stage, so I stopped pushing so hard. After I passed him, I thought to myself that it wouldhave been difficult to maintain the same pace right to the end, given how many potholes and rocks there were on theroad!”

Solberg’s retirement enabled Mikko Hirvonen to move into second position. When he returned to Loutraki, the Finnlooked somewhat incredulous at events: “I can hardly believe that I've moved up to second position. I haven't beenpushing since midway through yesterday to try and hold onto my position and secure a good overall result for the team.And now it looks like we might finish with a one-two!”

As it had been predicted that this Acropolis Rally would see plenty of unlikely twists and turns, SS20 left the team in acold sweat. At the second split, Sébastien Loeb was one and a half minutes behind the pace-setter. The no.1 DS3WRC lost no further time to the end of the stage, at which point Seb confirmed that he had been hit by a puncture: “Idon’t know what happened, but I felt that we had a flat tyre after three kilometres. It would have been impossible tomake it to the end like that, so we stopped to change the wheel. Everything went well and, in the end, our lead didn’tcome under threat.”

The rally concluded with the Power Stage, which was run on the first few kilometres of the Aghii Theodori stage. Withthe pressure finally off, Sébastien Loeb completed a masterful weekend’s performance on this relatively smooth stageby taking the fastest time and with it, the three bonus points. Third fastest on the Power Stage, Mikko Hirvonen alsograbbed an extra point. “We managed this race well, despite the constant pressure we were put under by our rivals,”said Loeb, who now boasts 71 career world championship wins. “I never lost my cool at any point, even when we got apuncture, because I knew we would still have enough of a lead. It is worth highlighting that we were able to count uponthe unwavering reliability of the DS3 WRC.”

“Yes, my thoughts are with the technical team when we talk about this one-two finish,” added Mikko Hirvonen. “Wehad no mechanical problems on either car; that is a truly exceptional achievement on a rally like this one. As far as I’mconcerned, I am still surprised to have finished second, but I had to be consistent and not make any mistakes. I amreally looking forward to the next two rallies in New Zealand and Finland!”

“When you look at the road surface conditions faced by the cars and the teams on this rally, you can but admire theoverall performance of the team,” emphasized Frédéric Banzet, Citroën General Manager. “The DS3 WRCs and thetwo crews were perfectly reliable. Citroën, Sébastien and Daniel extended their lead in the World Championship, so aswe approach the halfway stage of the season, our assessment of the results achieved is very positive. As has been thecase in recent rallies, Mikko and Jarmo produced a solid performance, enabling them to move up into second place inthe Drivers’ standings. Once again, I’m very proud of the best rallying team in the world.”

OVERALL STANDINGS1 Loeb / Elena Citroën DS3 WRC 4:42:03.33 Hirvonen / Lehtinen Citroën DS3 WRC +40.03 Latvala / Anttila Ford Fiesta RS WRC +3:04.84 Østberg / Andersson Ford Fiesta RS WRC +6:16.45 Prokop / Hruza Ford Fiesta RS WRC +7:46.56 Neuville / Gilsoul Citroën DS3 WRC +9:41.47 Ogier / Ingrassia Skoda Fabia S2000 +12:59.98 Al Rajhi / Orr Ford Fiesta S2000 +20:12.29 Tänak / Sikk Ford Fiesta S2000 +23:18.910 Al Kuwari / Arena Mini Cooper JCW WRC +28:40.5

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