Summer loving Solberg rocks out in Greece
With one day remaining in this year’s Acropolis Rally of Greece, Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud sit pretty for the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford rally team occupying a podium position in third. Team-mates Matthew Wilson/Scott Martin have also had an incredible day moving from their overnight position of 12th to sixth overall.

After retiring from yesterday’s leg Gigi Galli/Giovanni Bernacchini kicked off with a bang this morning achieving two fastest stage times out of a possible three. Unfortunately a hydraulic concern this afternoon forced him to retire and Galli will continue tomorrow under SupeRally regulations still with a chance to score manufacturer points for his Stobart team.

Solberg drove a superb and intelligent day preserving his Pirelli Scorpion tyres well as he posted top-five stage times throughout the day. The only problem was an engine issue when it cut out on both stage 9 and 10 and then again a few times post-service. Fortunately this did not greatly affect the performance or times set by the Norwegian but the issue will be checked by his technicians in service tonight before his final dash for the podium tomorrow.

Wilson’s advance of six places on his overnight position sees him just 11.2 seconds behind fifth placed Urmo Aava. The 21-year-old set a multitude of top-10 stage times including a fifth fastest on stage 12. Unfortunately the last stage of this morning’s loop was not the best for the Brit who spun on a fast section of the 10.8 kilometre test then picked up a puncture four kilometres from the end.

The only thing stopping Galli from completing the morning hat-trick of stage wins was when he got caught in the dust of fellow WRC competitor Conrad Rautenbach for almost 20 kilometres in stage 8 and lost around 45 seconds.

However while transiting to the start of stage 11 after midday service the Italian felt a vibration on the motorway and lost hydraulic pressure before arriving to the start of the test. As a result he lost the use of both his gear shift and differentials; important components to ensure the safe and efficient passage through the stages. Retirement was the only sensible option and means the car can be fully prepared for battle tomorrow.

Today’s six special stages covered the most competitive kilometres of the three days and included the monster Aghii Theodori stage which, at 32.16 kilometres, was the longest of the event. It pushed Pirelli’s Scorpion tyre to the limit and the rubber lasted well in the rough conditions. Leg 2 took crews east of Rally HQ which this year has been based at the Tatoi military airbase.

Thirty-plus degree temperatures stayed true from start to finish today making it tough going on crews especially over the longer stage. A loose, sandy gravel meant road sweeping which disadvantaged front-runners but over the second pass this afternoon roads quickly turned rough and stray rocks and ruts started to become a factor on this real rally of attrition.

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Gigi Galli said:
“We started off this morning losing some time by getting caught in Rautenbach’s dust but the car and tyres felt really good so we pushed in the next two stages and it was great to set two fastest stage times. However on the way to the first stage after service I heard a bang and felt some vibration in the car. We lost hydraulic pressure which meant no gear changes and no diffs so I decided it was too unsafe to attempt these three stages and I didn’t want to damage the car even more with Turkey only two weeks away.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Henning Solberg said:
“I’m in third, can you believe it? I was very excited on the last stage and was praying my car would make it through with no problem. It’s been a fantastic day for me and the conditions we faced on those three stages were the worst I have seen for a while. We had a small problem with the engine which dropped us some time and played with my concentration but to end the day on the podium is a great result and hopefully we can maintain this through tomorrow.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Matthew Wilson said:
“My plan today was to finish without any problem and drive to the conditions and I knew if we stayed out of trouble we would move up the leaderboard. In the long stage it was obvious people were having problems so we backed off and made sure we finished without any damage. We did have some problems with two slow punctures and a spin but fortunately didn’t drop much time because of this. I haven’t been the fastest today but making up six places in six stages proves we were the most consistent. This has been a pretty good day.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Wilson said:
“It has been a dream day for Henning as he has been in an exciting battle with his brother and is now on the podium. He has driven with his head, stayed out of trouble and kept his car damage free. Matt has had a sensible approach to what has been one of the toughest days of rally action this year and this has really paid off. He is looking good for important driver points tomorrow.”

Day 2 Leaderboard
1. S Loeb/D Elena F Citroën C4 2h48m11.1s
2. P Solberg/P Mills N Subaru Impreza +28.7s
3. H Solberg/C Menkerud N Ford Focus RS +1m05.3s
4. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen FIN Ford Focus RS +3m01.2s
5. U Aava/K Sikk EE Citroën C4 +4m11.6s
6. M Wilson/S Martin GB Ford Focus RS +4m22.8s
7. D Sordo/M Marti E Citroën C4 +5m33.6s
8. J-M Latvala/M Attila FIN Ford Focus RS +8m51.3s
9. C Rautenbach/D Senior ZW Citroën C4 +8m58.0s
10. T Gardemeister/T Tuominen Fin Suzuki SX4 +9m13.0s

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