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Hirvonen: I hope that luck will be on our side

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By Olivier Ferret

25 May 2013 - 10:21
Hirvonen: I hope that luck will be (...)

Reputed to be the most demanding event on the WRC calendar, the 2013 Acropolis Rally will nonetheless be contested at breakneck speeds. The Citroën To tal Abu Dhabi World Rally Team will be represented by the crews Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen and Dani Sordo/Carlos del Barrio for this, the sixth round of the season. Khalid Al-Qassimi/Scott Martin will be driving the DS3 WRC of the Abu Dhabi Citroën Total World Rally Team.

The legend of the Acropolis Rally has been built on the rough gravel roads of its stages, which make this rally a genuine test of endurance. Over the years, and as the gravel roads in Greece have been modernised, the average speed of the winner has gradually increased, now standing at around 90kph, like in Portugal, Argentina or Sardinia. These higher speeds have increased the stresses placed on the cars’ suspension systems and tyres, which are even greater still when air temperatures get close to 40°C!

The 2013 programme serves up a compact event, with a revised breakdown that packs the qualifying stage, ceremonial start and two stages into Friday’s leg. As night falls on Friday, competitors will set off on the 47km-long Kineta-Pissia test, the longest stage of the rally! Saturday’s leg will be even livelier, with eight stages that make up half of the total distance of timed sections.

The Acropolis Rallly’s new design makes it the shortest event contested so far this season. Which means that right from the word go, nobody can afford to lose any time! Having finished on the podium on the last four occasions here – winning in 2009 – Mikko Hirvonen is very familiar with the requirements of this event: “The road surface can change quite dramatically from one stage to the next. Sometimes, the roads are very smooth and flowing, and sometimes they are totally rock-strewn and full of potholes. The reliability of the cars and the strength of the tyres mean that we are pretty much flat out all the time, but endurance is still a real factor here.”

Having set some very good times in Argentina, the Finn hopes to put together the final pieces of the jigsaw to claim a win: “We are working all the time with the team to improve the car. Actually, we completed a short, specific test session when we arrived in Greece. I hope that luck will be on our side and that we manage to secure another win for Citroën.”

Meanwhile, after missing this rally for the last two years, Dani Sordo will have to familiarize himself with some of the stages held in the Corinthia region: “I really like this rally, although I haven’t always been successful here. You need a bit of luck to get a good result in Greece but the key is to manage your tyres throughout each loop and, obviously, avoid picking up any punctures. Generally speaking, the roads provide a good level of grip. These are the kinds of conditions that I prefer and I hope to rediscover the same level of performance as in Portugal.”

Back in the WRC after competing in the third round of the MERC in Jordan, Khalid Al-Qassimi considers this event to be somewhat special: “I competed in my first World Championship Rally here in Greece, back in 2004. I have now taken part in four Acropolis Rallies. I like the roads here, because they are sometimes quite similar in character to those you get in the Middle East.” The driver of the Abu Dhabi Citroën Total WRT’s Citroën DS3 WRC finished sixth overall in 2009.

Citroën Racing’s line-up for Greece is completed by the DS3 RRC of Robert Kubica/Maciej Baran, who will be competing in the WRC-2 category.

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